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Down goes Wichita

Panthers upset No. 15-ranked Shockers 57-52

Sports Writer

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 15:02

Basketball

ERIN KEISER/Northern Iowan

Jake Koch (20) takes aim for a shot in UNI’s Saturday, Feb. 2 game against Wichita State. The Panthers (12-11, 5-6 MVC) defeated the Shockers in an upset, 57-52.

The University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team defeated the No. 15-ranked Wichita State University Shockers Saturday 57-52. After falling behind 6-0 early, the Panthers hit their stride and never looked back.

“There’s no easy game in the (Missouri) Valley,” UNI sophomore forward Seth Tuttle said following the nail-biting victory.

While trailing 6-0, the Panthers looked a bit nervous and tentative with their shots throwing up any open look to no avail. However, a quick lay-up by Tuttle seemed to help the Panthers’ game-day jitters disappear. UNI turned Tuttle’s lay-up into a 12-0 run to grab a 12-6 lead early on.

With momentum flowing in UNI’s favor, the Shockers got a 3-pointer that silenced the raucous home crowd of 6,023 at the McLeod Center. However, UNI redshirt freshman Matt Bohannon answered back with a 3-pointer of his own, sending the crowd into a frenzy once again. Despite forcing WSU into eight first half turnovers, the Shockers closed the gap and tied the game a 23-23 going into halftime.

“They got the best of us when we played down at their place,” Tuttle said of UNI’s 25-point loss to the Shockers back on Dec. 30.

UNI was determined to get revenge Saturday, and their strong second-half play showed that.

The Shockers opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take their largest lead of the ballgame at 30-23. However, similar to the first half, UNI answered with another big run of their own to swing momentum back in their favor.

The Panthers narrowed the gap to 36-34 at the second media timeout, with 11:14 remaining in regulation. UNI responded with a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 46-36 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.

The run started with back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Marc Sonnen and junior forward Chip Rank. After that, it was all Anthony James. The senior scored six points on UNI’s next three possessions to put the Panthers up by 10.

However, WSU continued to chip away at the UNI lead and found themselves within two at 54-52 with under a minute to play. After an empty possession by the Panthers, the Shockers had the ball with 35 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie or win the game.

WSU’s Nick Wiggins attempted the game-tying layup with 18 seconds remaining, but Tuttle stepped up big, as he had all game long, and recorded one of his career-high four blocks before securing the defensive rebound.

Tuttle went to the free-throw line, where he converted one of his two attempts to put the Panthers back up by three.

The Shockers still had a chance to force overtime, but point guard Malcolm Armstead dribbled the ball out of bounds with just six seconds remaining in the game.

Sonnen inbounded the ball to Tuttle, who sealed the victory with a breakaway dunk.

“That was a good feeling right there,” Tuttle said of his game-clinching dunk.

When the clock struck zero, the UNI student section rushed the court to celebrate the upset victory.

“I think (the win) can boost our confidence a lot,” said Rank. “We’ve been staying strong together through all these ups and downs.”

UNI currently stands at 12-11 overall and 5-6 in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Panthers are tied for fifth place in the MVC with four other teams. UNI is one game  behind a fourth-place tie and two games behind a third-place tie with seven conference games remaining.

The Panthers return to action Tuesday night when they host the Missouri State University Bears at 7 p.m.

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