CEDAR FALLS - The Northern Iowa men's basketball team seems to be finding its way as it marches through the Missouri Valley Conference.
After back-to-back 30-point victories over Bradley and Drake, the Panthers got another strong performance and Mark Sonnen and Matt Bohannon combined to shoot 8-of-11 from 3-point range during a 58-45 win over last-place Southern Illinois at the McLeod Center.
It was the lowest point total in a Panther victory this season. The previous low was 70 against Illinois State on Jan. 5.
The Panthers led by as many as 20 in the second half thanks in large part to a sharpshooting performance from long range. UNI (11-9) was 8-of-15 from downtown. They used a 16-5 run in the first half to go up 19-10 and then pulled even further away with a 12-0 spurt that made it 38-22 with 16:32 to go in the game.
Sonnen began the second-half run with two quick triples. He was 5-for-7 from 3 in the game and finished with a game-high 15 points. Sonnen moved up to the No. 6 spot on the career 3-point field goals made at Northern Iowa. The senior now has 153, which moved him past Ali Farokhmanesh.
Anthony James was the only other Panther in double-digits with 14, but Bohannon had nine off the bench and Seth Tuttle had nine points and 10 boards.
The Panthers made six more treys and seven more free throws in the win, which moved them to 4-4 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Southern Illinois is now 1-7 in league play.
Dantiel Daniels had 11 points to lead the Salukis (8-11), while Desmar Jackson had nine. The team's second leading scorer - Jeff Early - was ejected early in the second half for a flagrant two. He finished with just three points.
Early did cut the UNI lead to just four with 1:54 to play in the first half. The Panthers led 28-22 at the break following a James layup. UNI improved to 11-1 when leading at the half this season.
The 10-0 run to start the second half included four points from Tuttle and the back-to-back treys by Sonnen. Northern Iowa never trailed by less than 13 the rest of the way and the largest lead of 20 came with 5:50 to go in the game. UNI also led by 20 when Deon Mitchell hit a free throw with 2:42 to play.
Northern Iowa improves to 27-1 under coach Ben Jacobson when holding its opponent to less than 50 points. Jacobson also is 19-1 all-time vs. MVC schools from the state of Illinois in the McLeod Center and 34-12 all-time against MVC teams from Illinois.