CEDAR FALLS – It percolated throughout the game.
Marc Sonnen walked to the bench after a timeout and said to the officials, “That was out of bounds.” Matt Bohannon awaited an answer on the same play, but didn’t get an answer before Jake Koch took his arm and pulled him away. Boos from the 6,325 in attendance at the McLeod Center rained down on the officials throughout the second half Saturday.
Ben Jacobson finally got their attention by leaving the coaching area with 35 seconds left in the game.
For doing so the UNI head coach picked up his sixth technical foul in his seven years at Northern Iowa (18-12, 10-6). Denver (18-8, 13-2) made the Panthers pay converting it into four points and a 63-57 non-conference Bracket Busters win.
“Not that I’ve been around forever but I have enough experience in my seventh year. Ben Jacobson of year one or year two maybe would have reacted that way,” Jacobson said. “That’s a mistake and that cost us a possession at an important time of the game. That won’t happen again.”
Jacobson became irate after Sonnen attempted a 3 across from the UNI bench. As he returned to the ground from the jump shot, the UNI senior drew contact from the defender and fell to the ground.
Chase Hallam pulled down the miss for Denver and play continued up the court without a whistle. When a whistle finally came, the culprit was Jacobson.
“It gave them an extra possession with 35 seconds left, so yeah that two points was big,” Jacobson said. “…That did not help us win.”
The frustration culminated with the tech but lingered throughout the night as Denver had a response every time UNI made it close. In the final 13 minutes, Northern Iowa cut it to a one possession game nine times. It trailed by a single point three times, but never held the lead in the second half.
“I felt like we did a pretty good job. We got points in the paint, kick out 3s, we did what we needed to do, they just always had an answer,” UNI’s Seth Tuttle said.
Tuttle played the key role in the second half comeback after the Panthers squandered a 16-2 lead to begin the game. The sophomore finished with a game high 18 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
After taking a seven-point deficit to the locker room, UNI tried to erase it by getting the ball inside. All but six of the Panthers’ points came from going inside. Northern Iowa tallied 18 points in the paint in the second half. It also made eight free throws, which came via fouls in the paint. Even one of the two 3s UNI hit was a result of a Tuttle pass out of the paint.
“You’ve got to get the ball down on the block. You’ve got to force them to defend the ball when it’s on the block. We did a better job of that in the second half,” Jacobson said. “And in the second half we also drove it from the wing and into the teeth of their defense. That’s my feeling, experience, that’s the best way to play against them with our offense.”
The Panthers excelled at scoring from close in, shooting 9 of 14 (64 percent) and 9 of 11 at one point from inside the arc. Their 3-point shooting let them down, at 37.5 percent for the game, but 4 of 14 in the final 37 minutes and 2 of 9 in the second half.
Some of that had to do with the injury to Anthony James. The senior guard left the game midway through the second half after his colliding with a defender and injuring his knee.
“The way he’s played in the last couple of weeks, how well he’s played and not having his experience on the floor, may have hurt him some,” Jacobson said. “At the same time…the guys did a good job without him and had a chance to win.”
The loss snaps a six-game winning streak but doesn’t affect the Panthers’ conference record. The Missouri Valley compiled a 7-3 record during Bracket Busters Saturday. Besides UNI, Illinois State fell to Utah State and Creighton lost to St. Mary’s.
The Panthers still sit in second place in the Valley behind the Bluejays heading into the final two games of the regular season before they go to St. Louis for the MVC tournament.
“I told them, we’ll go back into league play and we’ve got 80 minutes left,” Jacobson said. “Starting with the 40 on the road, so confidence stays up, keep playing with that momentum we’ve got and get ready to play our best game against Southern (Illinois).”
DENVER 63, NORTHERN IOWA 57
Game Ball: Denver – The Pioneers had four players in double figures and a fifth with nine points. Each time UNI closed in on the Denver lead, it always had an answer.
Lame Ball: Ben Jacobson – The Panthers head coach picked up a technical foul with 35 seconds to go. After the free throws and extra possession, Denver increased its lead from two to six.
Light the victory cigar: :35 second half. Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson picks up a technical foul. Denver scores four points with the extra possession to go up 61-55.
Water Cooler stat: The Panthers shot 9 of 15 from inside the arc in the second half. The 3-ball killed UNI as it made just 2 of 9 in the final 20 minutes and 4 of 14 the final 18:24.Big Number: 8:12 - The amount of time UNI was stuck on 21. It was just a portion of a 30-9 run Denver closed the first half with.