CEDAR FALLS –In Northern Iowa’s first meeting against North Dakota in November, 10 Panthers saw the court for at least 10 minutes. The second time around on Wednesday UNI head coach Ben Jacobson rotated in 11 players.
In reality he only really needed three.
Anthony James, Marc Sonnen and Seth Tuttle poured in 62 points in front of 2,450 in the McLeod Center, powering the Panthers (19-14) to a 77-66 win against North Dakota (16-17) in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
“In the first half Marc and AJ were able to get loose and knocked in some shots,” Jacobson said. “And then Seth, in some of the things we were doing, but also driving it in from that high post, we were able to create some things.”
Sonnen and James, making up two-thirds of the UNI backcourt, dropped 26 points in the first half. The duo caught fire from deep sinking 6 of 10 attempts from beyond the arc.
The early success allowed Tuttle to close the game from inside. The sophomore finished with 19 points, but 11 came in span of 5:28 while North Dakota chipped away at 19 point deficit. During the stretch the team scored 15 total points. UNI’s cushion shrunk to single digits for the first time since the end of the first half with 3:59 remaining. Tuttle responded with a basket and a foul. He made the free throw and UNI’s lead never sunk below 10 the rest of the night.
“He was good. We felt like we had an advantage inside at those two spots with our size,” Jacobson said. “…We felt like we needed to get the ball in there with Seth and Jake (Koch) in particular.”
The Panthers didn’t take advantage of the size discrepancy until late. Despite Tuttle’s dominance, North Dakota finished the game with advantages of 26-24 in the paint and 34-31 on the boards.
Northern Iowa lived 21-feet away from the rim prior to Tuttle’s strong finish. In the first 29:21 of the game, the Panthers buried nine 3-pointers, shooting 50 percent from deep.
“Jake and Seth in the post, when they get double teamed in the post they’re always looking to find the open 3-point shooter,” James said. “It was just me on the other end and other guys as well. I was just making shots.”
James finished with a game-high 24 on 8 of 13 shooting, including three 3s. Sonnen scored 19, burying five from beyond the arc. Jake Koch added the only other long range field goal, which was the senior’s only basket.
Outside of the offensive trio, Deon Mitchell finished with seven points, four of which came in the first half.
With the majority of scoring coming from jump shots, more specifically 3-pointers, UND began running at shooters. With the defense fleeing the paint, Tuttle devoured the opportunity.
“Anytime we can get some of our guards hot, like AJ and Marc did, that’s obviously going to open things up,” Tuttle said. “They’re going to press up in the guards and really open up angle scores for us bigs down low and we utilized that in the second half.”
The win keeps Northern Iowa’s season alive. The Panthers host Illinois-Chicago Saturday at 7 p.m. in yet another opportunity for this senior class to play inside the McLeod Center.
“I just like being around these guys,” James said. “It’s been a hard fought year and we’re still staying together. We’ve got a lot of chemistry together and thing of that nature. It’s always important to go out, how I want to my senior year.”
NORTHERN IOWA 77, NORTH DAKOTA 66
Game Ball: Seth Tuttle – The sophomore finished with 19 points but 11 came in the final 8:19 when North Dakota sliced Northern Iowa’s lead to as few as nine points.
Lame Ball: Aaron Anderson – North Dakota’s second-leading scorer didn’t give Troy Huff much help, scoring eight points on 1 of 7 shooting.
Light the Victory Cigar: 1:41 of the second half
Watercooler Stat: Anthony James/Marc Sonnen/Seth Tuttle combined to score 62 of UNI’s 77. The Panthers only had five points from their bench, compared to UND’s 24.
Big Number: 41 – UNI scored 41 points in the first half, tying the most it scored all season against a Division I opponent.