Aces’ Second-half rally comes up short at Northern Iowa

University of Evansville men's basketball program.
University of Evansville men's basketball program.(WFIE)
Published: Dec. 3, 2022 at 10:50 PM CST
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CEDAR FALLS, IA. (WFIE) - Down by 18 points at halftime, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team closed the gap to six points before Northern Iowa fended off the challenge to take a 72-55 win on Saturday at the McLeod Center.

Trailing by an 18-4 margin to open the game, UE went to halftime trailing 38-20 but stormed back in the second half.  Evansville cut the deficit to as few as six tallies in the second half before Northern Iowa finished with the win.  The Purple Aces outscored the Panthers by a 35-34 margin in the second half.

“UNI came out on fire and hit their first six shots, they were ready to go and hit some good shots,” Aces head coach David Ragland said.  “We responded very well but we have to be ready to go from the tip.  At halftime, we made some adjustments to get us in better positions and it helped us.”

Scoring 17 points, Kenny Strawbridge Jr. led the Purple Aces on the scoresheet.  He was 6-of-15 from the field while tallying five rebounds.  Antoine Smith Jr. scored 10 points and grabbed five boards.  Marvin Coleman II paced the team with seven caroms.  The leading scorer in the contest was Bowen Born of UNI.  He scored 29 points, including 22 in the first half alone.  He was 10-of-21 from the field and drained five 3-pointers.  Tytan Anderson scored 19 while posting a game-high nine rebounds.

Converting their opening six field goal attempts, the Panthers jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first three minutes of the game.  Sekou Kalle got the Aces on the board to tie it at 2-2 before UNI heated up from outside with four triples finding the bottom of the net.  The Panthers pushed the lead to 18-4 to open the game with Kenny Strawbridge Jr. hitting a jumper to halt the run.

Inside of the 7-minute mark of the first half, Strawbridge hit a triple and Marvin Coleman II followed with a layup that got Evansville within single digits (27-18), but the final minutes of the period saw UNI outscore the Aces by an 11-2 margin to lead 38-20 at halftime.  Bowen Born recorded 22 points in the first half.

Gage Bobe opened the scoring in the second half with a triple and Coleman followed with a basket as the Aces scored the first five points of the second half.  Evansville connected on five of its first seven attempts of the second half to open on a 13-1 run.  Bobe’s second 3-pointer of the period cut the deficit to 39-33.  The defense for UE held the Panthers to 0-for-8 to open the half.

Just as fast as UE rallied, Northern Iowa countered with seven in a row to retake a 13-point lead.  After missing their first eight attempts of the period, the Panthers hit four in a row.  Up 52-41, Northern Iowa drained three consecutive triples to take their largest lead of 20 points with 9:25 showing on the clock.

UNI extended its lead to 21 points (65-44) but the Aces continued to fight back.  Antoine Smith Jr. hit a triple in a 7-0 stretch but the deficit was too much to overcome with the Panthers completing the game with the 72-55 victory.  UNI outshot the Aces by a 45.2%-37.3% margin for the game while totaling 42 rebounds to UE’s 31.

UE is back home Wednesday for a non-conference game against Campbell.  Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the Ford Center.