CINCINNATI (AP) -- Jihad Muhammad's four-point play completed
Cincinnati's 18-point comeback in regulation, and Jason Maxiell had
a breakaway dunk in the second overtime Wednesday night that
clinched a 76-70 victory over Northern Iowa in the Las Vegas
Northern Iowa (1-1), returning the core of a team that won its
first Missouri Valley Conference tournament title last season,
pulled ahead by 18 points in the second half against a
poor-shooting team but couldn't hold on.
Cincinnati (2-0) tied it at 56 in regulation on Muhammad's
four-point play with 1:23 to go. The Bearcats shot only 28.6
percent from the field, but made up for it by dominating the boards
down the stretch and forcing 22 turnovers.
Cincinnati's Armein Kirkland missed a 3-pointer in the closing
seconds of the first overtime, leaving it tied at 64. Eric Hicks'
putback and Maxiell's dunk gave the Bearcats a seven-point lead in
the second overtime.
Muhammad led Cincinnati with 23 points, but was only 6-of-22
from the field. Maxiell added 21 points and 15 rebounds. Erik
Crawford had 16 for Northern Iowa and Brooks McKowen scored 13.
The exempt tournament features six teams playing a round-robin
format on local campuses, then meeting in Las Vegas for the final
games in late December. No. 5 Illinois, Longwood, Northwestern
State and Valparaiso fill out the field.
The tournament uses experimental rules -- the lane is 3 feet
wider, the 3-point arc is moved back 9 inches to 20 feet, 6 inches.
There's also a "no-charge" zone under the basket similar to the
one used in the NBA.
Both teams struggled to score at the outset -- it was 9-all with
just over 10 minutes left in the first half. Northern Iowa missed
its first six shots, and Cincinnati opened in a 2-for-14 funk
against a packed-in defense.
Northern Iowa emerged from its slump with a crowd-hushing run.
McKowen made a three-point play and a driving layup in a 12-2 spurt
that pushed it to 24-13.
The Panthers' three-guard offense repeatedly made open shots on
the perimeter as they led by as many as 14 in the first half.
Coach Bob Huggins kept his cold-shooting team in the locker room
for the entire halftime break. Kirkland took their only two warmup
shots when they returned to the floor -- and missed them both.
Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell then missed a dunk off a rebound to open
the second half.
McKowen hit bookend 3-pointers in a 10-point spurt that gave
Northern Iowa its biggest lead, 44-26, with 14:46 left. Cincinnati
was shooting only 22.9 percent at that point.
Freshman Roy Bright hit a pair of short jumpers, starting a 26-8
spurt that sent it to overtime. Muhammad hit a pair of 3's in the
run, then tied the game with his four-point play. He missed two
shots to put Cincinnati ahead at the end of regulation.