Northern Iowa Beats Iowa State 69-62

Iowa State forward Royce White loses the ball as he drives past Northern Iowa forward Jake Koch, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By James Steward

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson tried to downplay his program's third straight win at Iowa State, chalking it up to a few late shots that the Panthers hit and the Cyclones didn't.

It's no coincidence, though, that Northern Iowa tends to be the team making the plays that matter in this heated in-state rivalry.

Anthony James scored 17 points, Matt Morrison added 14 off the bench and Northern Iowa beat Iowa State 69-62 on Wednesday night, picking up its fifth win in its last six meetings with the Cyclones.

Fellow reserve Marc Sonnen had 10 of his 12 points in the second half for the Panthers (6-1), who outscored Iowa State 17-8 down the stretch and displayed more composure than the highly regarded but unproven Cyclones.

"Morrison and Sonnen made some shots. And if they don't and two of the guys on Iowa State's team make one more each, then they win," Jacobson said.

Though that might have been true, it was when the Panthers made those shots that made up the difference.

Morrison opened the second half with a pair of key 3s, and Sonnen buried a pair of late 3-pointers to put Northern Iowa on top 58-54. Seth Tuttle, who had nine points and 12 rebounds, scored inside to give the Panthers a six-point lead with 2:05 left.

Northern Iowa hung on from there, notching its fifth straight win since a loss at Saint Mary's two weeks ago.

"We stopped communicating out there. Things got tough for us and we just stopped talking. We're pretty good when things are going well," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You've got to stay solid. You've got to stay even in this game."

Royce White and Chris Allen each scored 15 points for Iowa State (5-2), which was just 4-of-18 shooting from 3-point range, including 1-of-8 in the second half.

Both teams entered Wednesday night with a 5-1 record, which included four wins apiece — over the same four opponents — in the South Padre Island Invitational.

This, though, was a true early test of where they are heading into December.

The Cyclones showed they've got work to do heading into Saturday's game at No. 14 Michigan.

"As talented as we are, we're still a brand-new team together," White said. "It's a growing process, and with each win and with each loss, there's going to be growth."

Iowa State opened the game with the hot hand, jumping ahead 14-4 behind eight quick points from Chris Babb, the Big 12's most recent rookie of the week. But the Panthers kept their poise and started to get some shots to fall, a trend no doubt aided by some spotty Cyclones defense.

Northern Iowa's ball movement caused Iowa State fits late in the first half, leaving Hoiberg exasperated about his team's inability to stop the Panthers.

Northern Iowa led 33-28 at the break, hitting 10 of its 15 shots from inside the 3-point line.

"We were able to switch gears a little bit, and we started to get the ball inside," Jacobson said.

Morrison, a seldom-used sophomore guard from Solon, Iowa, helped the Panthers build their lead to 42-35 with just over 13 minutes left. The Cyclones went inside to go back on top, as White and freshman center Percy Gibson put Iowa State ahead 45-44 with 8:58 left.

But Northern Iowa showed that, at least at this point in this season, it's more prepared to handle crucial situations than a revamped Cyclones team still trying to find itself.

"I think we just got outplayed. I think that's the bottom line. We've just got to play harder. We've got to find a way to get stops down the stretch," White said.

Babb finished with just eight points, all in the opening few minutes, as Iowa State built a 10-point lead it couldn't hold onto.

"You can't be front-runners, and I thought (Wednesday) night we were front-runners," Hoiberg said.

N. IOWA (6-1)

Mitchell 0-4 0-0 0, Tuttle 4-4 1-2 9, Moran 1-5 2-2 5, Koch 1-4 2-3 4, James 6-11 4-6 17, Rank 0-3 0-0 0, Singleton 0-0 0-0 0, Morrison 5-6 0-0 14, Sonnen 4-9 1-2 12, Pehl 3-4 2-3 8. Totals 24-50 12-18 69.<

IOWA ST. (5-2)

Babb 3-6 0-0 8, Ejim 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 4-13 6-6 15, Christopherson 4-7 0-0 9, White 5-13 5-8 15, Palo 2-2 1-2 5, Booker 2-4 0-1 4, Gibson 2-2 0-0 4, McGee 0-4 2-2 2. Totals 22-52 14-19 62.<

Halftime_N. Iowa 33-28. 3-Point Goals_N. Iowa 9-24 (Morrison 4-5, Sonnen 3-7, James 1-1, Moran 1-3, Rank 0-2, Koch 0-3, Mitchell 0-3), Iowa St. 4-18 (Babb 2-4, Christopherson 1-2, Allen 1-6, Booker 0-1, Ejim 0-1, McGee 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_N. Iowa 33 (Tuttle 12), Iowa St. 29 (Babb, White 8). Assists_N. Iowa 11 (Koch 4), Iowa St. 10 (White 5). Total Fouls_N. Iowa 20, Iowa St. 17. A_13,509.
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