Courtesy ISU Sports Information:
NORMAL, Ill. – A last-second three-point attempt from Illinois State guard Anthony Cousin came up short, as the Redbirds (8-9, 0-6 MVC) dropped a close one to UNI (12-6, 3-3 MVC) by a score of 46-44 Wednesday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
Blake Mishler had a solid game and led the Redbirds with 10 points and five rebounds, while Jon Ekey added nine points and a season-high five rebounds for the Redbirds. The loss was the sixth in a row against the Panthers and the sixth in a row overall for the Redbirds, who have lost the last two games by a combined six points to their Valley opponents.
UNI jumped out to an early 4-2 lead thanks to a pair of baskets from Kwadzo Ahelegbe, but ISU answered with seven-straight points to take a 9-4 advantage by the second official’s timeout of the first half. Ekey started the run with a three-pointer from the corner and Mishler tossed in four-straight points on a pair of free throws and a jumper in the lane to cap off the run.
The Redbirds held the Panthers scoreless for four and a half minutes, before they went on a 17-2 run over the next 4:27 to take an 21-11 lead after a three-pointer by Johnny Moran. Mishler slowed down the Panthers with a jumper and answered another basket by Moran with a layup in the paint by Mishler to cut the UNI lead to 23-15 with 4:42 left in the first half.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Ekey and Anthony Cousin on consecutive possessions quickly cut the Panthers’ lead to just two points at 23-21 with 1:21 left, forcing UNI head coach Ben Jacobson to call a timeout. Both teams had good looks over the final minute-plus, but the shots didn’t fall and the score remained 23-21 in favor of UNI at halftime.
UNI was the first to score out of the break after a layup by Koch, but the lead would be short-lived as ISU answered with a 15-5 run over the next six and a half minutes to take a 36-30. Back-to-back three-pointers from Ekey and John Wilkins ignited the run and Wilkins added five more points after a jumper by Jackie Carmichael to extend the lead for the Redbirds. Austin Hill capped off the run with a layup before the Panthers scored their first field goal in over six minutes to cut the ISU lead to 38-34 with 9:03 left in the game.
ISU later extended the lead to 42-37 with 6:09 left in the game on a jumper by Hill, but a jumper by UNI’s Anthony James and a three-pointer from Koch knotted the score at 42-42 with 4:35 left on the clock. The Panthers would then take the lead a minute later on a jumper by James, before Carmichael answered with a jumper of his own to tie the game for the second time at 44-44.
James continued his late charge with a layup with 2:30 left on the clock to give UNI a 46-44 lead. Both teams had strong looks at the hoop over the next two minutes but neither scored and ISU got the ball back with 30 seconds left after a steal by Ekey. After a timeout, a jumper by Hill fell short with 14 seconds and James was fouled on the rebound to send him to the line. James then missed the front end of the one-and-one and UNI’s Lucas O’Rear fouled Alex Rubin to give the Redbirds the ball back and one last shot for the win.
After another timeout by the Redbirds, a designed play for Cousin gave him an open look from the top of the key but his three-point attempt bounced off the rim and the Panthers came away with the 46-44 win. The Redbirds return to action Saturday, Jan. 15, when they continue their homestand against Evansville.