Panthers Complete Perfect Home Schedule By Beating Evansville, 68-57
On a night when UNI's five seniors were honored, it was fitting that one of them would play one of the best games of his career.
Deon Mitchell (Pflugerville, Texas) scored a season-high 17 points to lead the 10th-ranked Panthers to a 68-57 win over Evansville at the McLeod Center Wednesday night (February 25, 2015). Mitchell was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor.
Junior Paul Jesperson (Merrill, Wis.) also had a perfect night for UNI, draining all four of his field goals (including 3-for-3 from three-point range) while scoring 11 points off the bench. Senior Seth Tuttle (Sheffield, Iowa) added 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
The 10th-ranked Panthers completed a perfect 15-0 home season with the victory, which was UNI's 18th-straight at the McLeod Center dating back to last season. The Panthers (27-2 overall, 16-1 MVC) set a new school record by winning their 16th-straight game overall.
By beating Evansville (19-10 overall, 9-8 MVC), UNI also avenged its only Missouri Valley Conference loss of the season.
The Panthers shot 52.3 percent from the floor - marking the 11th time this season that UNI has shot 50 percent or better from the field.
UNI led from start to finish and opened up a 36-24 halftime lead - matching a 12-point lead the Panthers held in their previous meeting with the Purple Aces.
UNI led by 17 points at 44-27 with 16:29 left in the game following a layup by senior Marvin Singleton (Minneapolis, Minn). However, Evansville rallied with a 13-1 run to trim the UNI lead to 45-40 with 12:09 remaining in the contest.
The Panthers used a 10-1 run keyed by six points from Mitchell to tally a 55-41 advantage with 8:28 left in the second half. Evansville could only get as close as 11 points the rest of the way.
The Purple Aces were led by D.J. Balentine's 16 points and Egidijus Mockevicius's double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds).
The victory sets up a much-anticipated showdown on Saturday, the final day of the regular season. The Panthers travel to 11th-ranked Wichita State for a game that will determine the Missouri Valley Conference championship and the top seed in next week's MVC Tournament. Tip-off is at 1 p.m. inside Charles Koch Arena. The game will be a part of ESPN's "College GameDay" program.
NOTES: The Panthers have won eight consecutive games by double figures ... UNI moved to 17-0 in the McLeod Center as a ranked team (Coaches Poll) ... it is UNI's third perfect home record since joining the NCAA Division I ranks (1983-84 - 14-0; 2009-10 - 14-0) ... it is the first time in school history that UNI has won 16 MVC games ... UNI honored its five seniors (Nate Buss, Max Martino, Deon Mitchell, Marvin Singleton and Seth Tuttle) prior to the game and each of them spoke to the crowd afterward.