Cyclones fall to in-state rival Panthers

Jake Lovett

CEDAR FALLS — For the first time all season, Iowa State found itself unable to control the pace of the action.

For the first time under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones (6-1) didn’t reach the 70 point mark and suffered their first loss of the season, 60-54, at the hands of in-state rival Northern Iowa (3-2) on Wednesday night in Cedar Falls.

“Tip our hat to Northern Iowa,” said coach Fred Hoiberg, “They did what they had to do to win the game.”

The Cyclones got up early, taking a 14-5 lead with 12:39 left in the opening frame. However, from there, the ISU offense went cold and got outscored 21-11 over the rest of the first half to give the Panthers a 26-25 lead going into the locker room.

In the second half it was more back-and-forth basketball, with four lead changes, three ties and the largest lead being only a six-point Panthers’ lead.

“I knew it was going to be a close game,” said UNI coach Ben Jacobson, “I just didn’t know if it was going to be close at 60 or close at 90. We knew we had our hands full, and we did.”

The ISU offense was suffocated all night, both by the UNI defense and the slow pace that the Panthers play. Northern Iowa has only allowed an opponent to reach the 60-point mark twice, happening in both of its losses.

“It was a kind of a different style that we haven’t played yet,” said ISU guard Diante Garrett. “Those guys did a good job of slowing us down on our break.”

Iowa State was only able to shoot 18-of-54 from the field for 33.3 percent. The ISU offense also struggled from behind the arc, hitting only 6 of its 20 three-point tries.

The Cyclones’ leading scorer, Garrett, had 17 points on 7-of-23 shooting.

“It was just one of those nights,” Hoiberg said after the game. “You hope they don’t happen very often, but every team has those nights.”

The Panthers’ defense was able to hold the normally high-powered ISU offense well under its season average of 84.3 points per game, thanks in part to the Cyclones’ poor shooting.

ISU guard Scott Christopherson, who had been shooting 50.8 percent from the floor for the season, struggled to find a rhythm against the tight UNI defense. The junior was only able to get 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Meanwhile, senior Jamie Vanderbeken struggled with just three points for the Cyclones.

“Christopherson and Vanderbeken, those guys have been shooting the ball so well, it makes it so hard on your defense because Garrett, [Jake] Anderson and [Melvin] Ejim drive the ball so well, something’s got to give,” said UNI coach Ben Jacobson.

The UNI defense backed off on the ISU shooters, challenging them to make shots early and often. Unfortunately for Hoiberg’s squad, the shots didn’t fall and the offense could never get rolling.

“They switched every screen, packed in where we couldn’t get our penetration going,” Garrett said. “We had a lot of open shots  and a lot of easy shots that we missed that we normally make.”

Anderson was able to put in 14 points, while the freshman Ejim only scored seven and fouled out late in the game.

The Cyclones were frustrated with foul trouble for much of the game, as Ejim and the big men Vanderbeken and Calvin Godfrey each had two at the end of the first half. Vanderbeken, Godfrey and Anderson all finished the game with four fouls.

Several ISU fouls came in the lane and around the basket. The Panthers have more size on the front line than most of Iowa State’s first six opponents, and it was something the Cyclones struggled to deal with.

Northern Iowa also outrebounded the Cyclones 41-30.

“I said at the very first press conference that rebounding was something that was going to keep me up at night,” Hoiberg said. “We have to get bodies on guys if we’re going to go out and get rebounds, and we weren’t doing that.”

With the win, Northern Iowa moves to 3-2, and has now won 18 straight games played in the McLeod Center.