Men’s basketball: Southern falls in tournament heartbreaker to UNI Panthers

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Southern’s offense gave a little too late, falling to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, 61-58, in this year’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

The Salukis came into the matchup having won three straight and sweeping the regular season series against UNI. Earlier today, both Missouri State and Illinois State lost their tournament games having swept the regular season series against their opponents.

The Panthers (15-17) won four of their last six but came into the game losing of their last two games – including a one point loss to Loyola on February 27th.


Senior center Kavion Pippen opened the scoring for the Salukis with a layup and senior guard Sean Lloyd Jr made a three-pointer but UNI answered with five points of their own to lead 7-5.

Junior guard Eric McGill answered the Panther lead with a drive to the basket in which he was fouled and made his free throw to give the Dawgs a one point lead.

Southern’s second turnover of the game led to a fastbreak layup for UNI giving them a 10-8 lead at the 15:36 mark of the first half.

The Panther defense held SIU scoreless until a jumper by Pippen at the free throw line ended the scoreless streak as the Dawgs trailed 15-10.

With Southern (17-15) hoping for a stop trailing 18-16 senior guard Armon Fletcher triggered an offensive foul against Northern Iowa and on the Salukis next possession senior center Thik Bol missed the jumper on the baseline.

UNI ran their lead out to six as the SIU offense struggled to find an open man, but junior guard Aaron Cook scored on a step back jumper to pull the Salukis within four with 6:16 left in the first half.

The Panthers ran out to a seven point lead after a three-pointer by sophomore guard Trae Berhow, but two free throws made by Fletcher pulled the Dawgs within five at 25-20.


UNI decided to push the ball inside a lot earlier as free throws and buckets off picks pushed them out to a 30-22 lead.

Fletcher made a jumper and made both of his free throws for Southern under the two minute mark as they trailed 30-26.

Northern Iowa closed the first half with four straight buckets using picks down low to confuse the SIU defense as they lead 34-26.

Pippen closed the gap three times to six with jumpers at the free throw line off the pick and roll, but four minutes into the second half and the defense was unable to get a stop. He finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Pippen was the only Southern player scoring eight minutes into the second half. The SIU defense struggled to stop Berhow after a three-pointer by Pippen gave Northern Iowa a 47-36 lead.

A technical by McGill sent UNI to the line where they made both of their free throws, and Fletcher made a layup to pull within nine.

Freshman guard Darius Beane made a three-pointer which got the Southern fans back into the game, and Bol made a layup in the paint to close the gap to 51-45 with 7:24 left in the game.

After UNI made a basket in the paint to push it back out to an eight point lead, Fletcher made his first three-pointer of the game to drop it down to a five point deficit for Southern.

Fletcher followed the three-pointer with another three point play getting fouled putting up a layup and making the ensuing free throw to close it to 55-51 for Northern Iowa.

Fletcher finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

Beane got a block on the defensive end and after several out of bounds plays the Salukis were unable to capitalize on the defensive effort by the freshman as Southern trailed 55-51 with 2:56 left.

With the Salukis down four with two minutes left, Lloyd went to the line and missed both of his free throws. Pippen went to the line and made both of his free throws to make it a two point game with just over a minute left.

With the shot clock winding down, Cook made a step back three-pointer to give the Salukis a 58-57 lead with 30 seconds left in the game.

Freshman guard AJ Green made a shot and gave the Panthers a one point lead.

“He just made a big shot, that’s all there is to it,” Fletcher said. “The play broke down and he did a good job of doing what he does, which is making big shots at big times.”

Co- sixth man of the year, junior guard Spencer Haldeman, made both of his free throws with four seconds left on to give the Panthers three point lead.

Senior guard Marcus Bartley attempted a last second three point shot which rimmed out, giving the Panthers the win, 61-58.

Sports editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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