CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - So much for the sweep.
Looking for its first regular-season sweep of Northern Iowa since 2003, Southern Illinois University's men's basketball team ran into a buzz saw at both ends of the McLeod Center on Saturday night.
The Panthers jumped out 16-6 to start the game and extended a 15-point lead at the break to 20 with 12:53 to play. The Salukis never threatened the rest of the way and fell 72-52 in front of 5,062 fans.
It was SIU's eighth straight loss to UNI on the road, and gave the Salukis their first back-to-back defeats since the beginning of the season.
"That start, 16-6, was important. The finish of the first half may have been even more important," said UNI coach Ben Jacobson. "Instead of going into halftime being up eight or nine, we stretched it with two baskets late. I think that helped us, and then, to start the second half, we didn't necessarily get any stops, but we scored, so we were able to keep the lead."
Lucas O'Rear, a Du Bois native who was The Southern Illinoisan's player of the year as a senior at Nashville Community High School, led the charge for the two-time defending champs. O'Rear had as many points (four) as fouls in the first meeting between the two this season, which was won by the Salukis on Carlton Fay's last-second shot. O'Rear scored a career-high 18 points in 33 minutes Saturday, leading three players in double figures for the Panthers (13-6, 4-3 Missouri Valley Conference).
O'Rear made 6-of-7 from the field, including a few right underneath the basket after he lost his defender.
"They're a pretty aggressive defensive team, so, every once in awhile you'll be able to slip your screen and go right to the basket, and I was able to do that a couple times," O'Rear said.
SIU (9-9, 3-4 MVC) never put together back-to-back buckets but got three players into double figures. Fay had 19, Mamadou Seck had 12 and Kendal Brown-Surles scored 11 off the bench.
"I think they were laying in wait for us," said SIU coach Chris Lowery. "Obviously, we had an emotional win against them the first time. They went at our freshman big, and they got him. We never matched their toughness, and that's the key. Our toughness was definitely in doubt right away. They did a good job of exploiting people, and you just got to give them credit. They were ready for us. We weren't ready, and as a coaching staff, we got to take the blame for that.
"We got out-coached, out-toughed, and, you know, that's part of it, but now, we got some time. Now, we've got to get ready, and move on to the next one."
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