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Billikens Come Up Short in NIT First Round

by Brian Kunderman
Gibson Jimerson scored 20 points and Francis Okoro registered his ninth double-double of the season in Saint Louis’ 80-68 loss to Northern Iowa in a National Invitation Tournament first-round game Wednesday night at Chaifetz Arena.

The Billikens conclude the season with a 23-12 record. Northern Iowa, which will face either BYU or Long Beach State in the second round, improved to 20-11.

Jimerson connected on 4-of-9 from 3-point range. Okoro was 6-of-10 from the floor and finished with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, including five offensive boards.

Fred Thatch Jr. contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and a game-high-tying five assists. DeAndre Jones matched his season high of four assists starting in place of the injured Yuri Collins.

Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion, hit a 3-pointer on its opening possession and never trailed. An Okoro dunk knotted the score at 6-6, but UNI took the lead for good seconds later.

The Panthers led 26-13 midway through the first half, but the Billikens chipped away and narrowed the gap to two points, 40-38, with under a minute to play. A 3-pointer allowed UNI to take a 43-38 lead to the locker room.

The margin floated between seven and nine points until Okoro converted an offensive rebound into a bucket that made it 55-51 with 14:22 remaining. However, a 20-0 run put the game firmly in UNI’s control.

The Panthers’ 16 3-pointers were the most scored against the Billikens in school history.

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