UNI advances to semifinals of CIT
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 16:03
The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament may not be the most well-known tournament of March, but don’t tell that to the University of Northern Iowa. The UNI men’s basketball team has won three games in a row, all at home, to advance to the semifinals of the CIT.
After a loss to Missouri State University in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, it was expected that UNI would be playing in the National Invitational Tournament. However, the Panthers missed the cut for the NIT, which put them in the CIT field of 32 teams.
UNI went on to defeat their first two opponents, the University of North Dakota and the University of Illinois-Chicago, by a combined 23 points before hosting conference rival Bradley University Tuesday night.
After both teams shook off the early rust, Bradley jumped out to a 29-19 lead with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
For the final seven minutes of the half, the Panthers outscored the Braves 21-9 before heading into halftime in a 40-40 tie.
“We were just trying to push it. We had some success with transition in the first half so we were just trying to stick with it and tire (Bradley) out,” sophomore guard Deon Mitchell said.
UNI’s run did not stop at halftime. The Panthers came out firing in the second half, outscoring the Braves 13-4 in the first five minutes to take a 53-44 lead. With more than 11 minutes left in the game, Bradley cut the Panther lead to six points, but the score never got closer. UNI stretched their lead to as many as 15 points before defeating Bradley 90-77.
“We want to play as long as we can,” Mitchell said. “Even though we’re not where we want to be, we’re still going to play as long as we can for the seniors.”
Senior guard Anthony James led the Panthers with 21 points, 18 of which came in the second half. All five starters for UNI scored in double figures, including 19 points from sophomore forward Seth Tuttle.
The Panthers were outrebounded 33-29, but shot 59 percent from the field and only turned the ball over four times.
“Deon has really played good,” Coach Ben Jacobson said. “He’s strong enough that if you get into him and force him to do something, he can use that against guys because he doesn’t get knocked off his dribble very often.
“Especially in this game against a team like Bradley that defends the way they do and the number of steals they get and turn into points. That was certainly a key or the key to the game that we only turned it over four times,” Jacobson added.
With the win Tuesday, the Panthers will play Weber State Saturday at the McLeod Center. It’s the fourth straight game in the CIT in which UNI will play host.
“It feels good. The seniors are getting to play their last few games at home. That’s always good,” Mitchell said.
Tip off for Saturday’s game is set for 7 p.m.