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Defense propels UNI to 66-52 victory over in-state rival Drake

Published: Monday, January 23, 2012

Updated: Monday, January 23, 2012 14:01

Men's Basketball

ERIC CLAUSEN/Northern Iowan

Anthony James (52) works the ball inside the arc while Jake Koch (20) holds back Drake’s Rayvonte Rice (24) and Kraidon Woods (22) Sunday in the McLeod Center. James was one of 10 Panthers to score, with nine points.

The University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team held the Drake University Bulldogs to 38.2 percent shooting en route to a 66-52 victory over their in-state Missouri Valley Conference rivals.

"I thought we defended pretty well tonight… when we did settle in with our defense in the half-court I thought it was good, and for the most part we did a good job of rebounding the basketball," said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson.

With the victory, UNI completed a season sweep of all three in-state universities (Iowa, Iowa State and Drake) for the third time in school history.

"Somebody told me prior to the game that it had only happened twice for us and it's hard to do because of the quality of the other three teams; obviously, this year is no different," said Jacobson. "It's important … it doesn't happen that often and it's something all our guys can be proud of."

UNI (14-7, 4-5 MVC) also used a balanced scoring attack to snap their two-game losing skid. The Panthers had 10 players who scored in the game, something they hadn't accomplished all season.

"Another key of the night was the play of the bench," said Jacobson. "The last eight minutes of the first half, those five guys on the bench were in for probably five or six of the eight minutes and I thought they did a great job."

UNI was led in scoring by freshman center Seth Tuttle, who recorded his second straight double-digit scoring game with 13 points. Junior forward Jake Koch was the only other Panther to reach double-digits, scoring 10 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists.

The Panthers were able to contain Rayvonte Rice and Ben Simons, holding them to nine and eight points below their respective averages.

UNI trailed Drake 19-17 midway through the first half, but responded by going on a 36-11 run over the next 22 minutes to take a 53-28 lead with 12:59 remaining. Drake (12-8, 5-4 MVC) cut the UNI lead to 12 points with 5:08 left in regulation, but got no closer as UNI held on for a 66-52 victory.

"We didn't play well for about three-quarters of the game and UNI deserves credit for that. We missed too many lay-ups early in the game and it seemed like we were missing an outside shot. We didn't get to the free throw line enough," said Drake head coach Mark Phelps. "There is a formula for winning on the road and we didn't follow it tonight. Again, give UNI credit for that."

At the midway point of the MVC schedule, UNI sits at 4-5 and is in a tie for sixth place. While UNI likely isn't where they would like to be nine games into the MVC slate, they are just one game out of a tie for third place.

"I have told the guys, this is seven games in a row where we have played good basketball. We've played very well," said Jacobson. "We are working hard to eliminate just a couple mistakes and get a little bit better at some things, especially defensively. … We've played good basketball. The key is when you have a couple (games) that don't go your way, just stick with it."

"We try to look at the bright side and the good things that we have done so far," said Tuttle. "If you look at our losses, we have had pretty decent leads against good teams and we just didn't finish them off. If you look at it, we are right where we want to be. We just need to finish some games and keep the momentum going."

The Panthers return to action Wednesday night when they travel to Terre Haute, Ind., to face the Indiana State University Sycamores (11-9, 2-7 MVC). Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

Photos by Eric Clausen/Northern Iowan

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