The UNI Panthers tuned up for their Missouri Valley Conference opener by hosting 9th-ranked Xavier at a sold-out McLeod Center in Cedar Falls Friday night (Dec. 22, 2017).

UNI battled the Musketeers for nearly 38 minutes before Xavier pulled away for a 77-67 victory in front of 6,355 fans. The Musketeers (12-1 overall) used a crucial 11-2 run to turn a 46-46 tie into a 57-48 advantage with 5:30 left in the game, then held off the Panthers after UNI cut the deficit to 60-57 at the 1:47 mark.

Xavier was led in scoring by J.P. Macura's 15 points. The Musketeers also had double-figure scoring from Trevon Bluiett (12 points), Kaiser Gates (11 points) and Kerem Kanter (10 points). The Musketeers drained 12-of-23 shots from three-point land in the win.

UNI (8-4 overall) got a game-high 26 points from senior Bennett Koch as he went 8-of-12 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Koch fouled out with 1:47 left in the contest when he went after a rebound following Wyatt Lohaus' missed lay-up. Xavier's Naji Marshall blocked the shot, which ended up being the play of the night for the Musketeers.

The Panthers' largest lead of the game came at 22-12 with 9:45 left in the first half. Klint Carlson drained his second three-pointer of the opening stanza, giving UNI a 10-point advantage.

Xavier answered back with 13-0 run, which put the Musketeers ahead 25-22 with 4:17 left in the half. UNI knotted the game at 29-29 on a three-pointer from Spencer Haldeman, sending it to intermission in a deadlock.

Xavier secured a 10-point second-half lead at 46-36 on a three-pointer from Macura with 13:26 remaining in the game. UNI got the McLeod Center rocking with a 10-0 run of its own to even it up at 46-46. Wyatt Lohaus connected on back-to-back three-pointers to pull the Panthers even with the Musketeers with 10:31 left in the game.

UP NEXT: UNI returns to action on Thursday (Dec. 28) when the Panthers open Missouri Valley Conference play against Southern Illinois. Tip-off is scheduled at 7 p.m. at the McLeod Center. Tickets are available for as low as $5 for the UNI-SIU matchup by logging on to www.unipanthers.com/stocking up to Christmas Day.