Tuesday, February 25, 2014
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Illinois State falls to Northern Iowa 72-59

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[February 25, 2014]  CEDAR FALLS, Iowa Illinois State cut its second-half deficit to single digits on three separate occasions, but Missouri Valley Conference foe Northern Iowa held off ISU's comeback attempt, and the Panthers (14-14, 8-8 MVC) never trailed in a 72-59 win over the Redbirds (15-3, 8-8 MVC) on Sunday afternoon at the McLeod Center.

The loss places ISU in a four-way tie for third place in the league with Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois with a home game Wednesday against Indiana State (21-7, 12-4 MVC) and a road contest Saturday at Southern Illinois (12-17, 8-8 MVC) remaining.

Zach Lofton netted a career-best and game-high 24 points on a career-high eight field goals, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Redbirds. Reggie Lynch chipped in 10 points with a team-best seven rebounds to match his career mark. Meanwhile, Seth Tuttle led four Panthers in double figures with 18 points and nine rebounds.

UNI shot 46.9 percent from the field compared with ISU's 41.2 percent clip, and rebounding was even at 30 boards for each team. The Redbirds matched their season-best steals mark with 11 as Illinois State outscored Northern Iowa 35-32 in the second half but still came up short.

Northern Iowa established an early 10-0 lead in the first half, with six points from Tuttle during the opening stretch, as the Redbirds were held scoreless until Lofton's deep fadeaway two-pointer at the 13:30 mark. Lofton's bucket sparked a 6-3 run to pull within 13-6 with 11:15 remaining in the first half. Back-to-back Lofton 3-pointers cut Illinois State's deficit to 20-14.

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The Panthers then proceeded to gain a 17-point advantage their largest of the game at the 7:33 mark; however, the Redbirds answered with a 6-0 run on a pair of Lofton free throws and layups by Lofton and Jamaal Samuel to pull within 31-20 with 6:28 remaining in the opening stanza. UNI outscored ISU 7-2 to end the half, and the Panthers led 40-24 at the intermission.

In the second half, Illinois State outscored Northern Iowa 11-3 to pull within 47-38 at the 13:10 mark. After the Panthers regained their double-digit lead, a Lofton 3-pointer pulled ISU within 10 points, 53-43, with 9:14 remaining.

The Redbirds trimmed their deficit to single digits two more times on a Lofton 3-pointer to make the score 64-55 with 3:12 left and on a Lynch layup that made the score 68-59 at the 1:38 mark. UNI went on to net the final four points en route to the 72-59 victory.

With just two regular-season games remaining, Illinois State will host Indiana State on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. for the final regular-season home game on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Tickets are available on GoRedbirds.com, via phone at 309-438-8000 or in person at the Illinois State Athletics ticket office.

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ISU-NIU statistics  (PDF)

[Text from news release received from Illinois State University]

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