by Missouri State Athletics
Six clutch points by Northern Iowa’s Spencer Haldeman in the span of a minute was enough to lift UNI past visiting Missouri State, 64-59, here Saturday, in a tightly-contested Missouri Valley Conference matchup.
Haldeman broke up a 53-53 tie with a free throw with 2:13 remaining and then hit one of the biggest shots of the game 30 seconds later with a 3-pointer to push the Panthers ahead by four.
After MSU’s Tulio Da Silva responded with a pair of free throws with 75 seconds to play, Haldeman got to the line again at the 1:12 mark and made both to make it 59-5 headed into the game’s final minute.
Missouri State (11-12, 5-5 MVC) was able to get within four points of the lead twice in the final 20 seconds – first on a jumper by Josh Webster and later on a Da Silva free throw – but Tywhon Pickford scored the Panthers’ final five points to keep Missouri State at arm’s length.
Da Silva led the Bears with 17 points, while Keandre Cook scored 15 for coach Dana Ford’s troops. Both players tallied five rebounds, while Webster scored nine points with six assists and no turnovers.
Haldeman led UNI (10-13, 5-5) with 15 points on 3-of-3 from long range.
After trailing by one at the intermission, the Bears broke through at the 15:25 mark of the second with a steal by Kabir Mohammed that led to a layup by Webster on the other end to put MSU up 38-37. After surrendering a layup to Haldeman, the visitors retook the lead when Webster scored again from up close to make it 40-39 with 13:49 to play.
UNI caught a huge break on its next possession to go up by three when Haldeman lined up a 3-pointer from top of the key, and made it a four-point play moments later after Ryan Kreklow was whistled for a foul on the play.
The Bears whittled away until Kreklow gave MSU the lead again with just over seven minutes to go. After hitting two free throws moments earlier, the senior snagged a steal on the defensive end and rolled all the way to the rim to put Missouri State ahead 46-45.
But UNI responded with five unanswered points over the next two minutes to lead by four again. Cook stopped the bleeding with a second-effort jumper near the five-minute mark, but Isaiah Brown put the Panthers up five with 3:52 to go on a traditional 3-point play.
Jarred Dixon scored the game’s next five points to knot the score at 53 with 2:36 to go. But the last two minutes belonged to Haldeman, Pickford and the Panthers who improved to 9-3 at McLeod Center.
Missouri State was 20-of-42 (.476) from the field, 6-of-17 (.353) from long range and 13-of-17 (.765) at the stripe with 12 turnovers and seven steals.
Northern Iowa finished 22-of-42 (.524) overall and 5-of-9 (.556) from bonus range. The Panthers also made 15-of-18 (.833) at the foul line and matched the Bears, 23-23, on the glass.
A back-and-forth first half saw the Bears use a 6-0 run late in the half to gain their biggest advantage of the opening stanza, 25-22, after Cook accounted for four points on the run, and Da Silva added an exclamation-point alley-oop dunk at the 3:00 mark.
UNI responded with a traditional 3-point play by Luke McDonnell to tie it up, and after another dunk by Da Silva in the final minute, the Panthers took the lead going into the break with a trey by Wyatt Lohaus.
The Bears return to JQH Arena on Wednesday to battle rival Southern Illinois (in a regionally-televised showdown on FOX Sports Midwest and the MVC Television Network.