8:05 PM ET, February 11, 2006
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) -- Missouri State coach Barry Hinson argued last month that Top 25 voters weren't giving Northern Iowa the respect it deserved.On Saturday night, his team most likely bounced the Panthers out of the national rankings.Nathan Bilyeu scored 19 points and Dale Lamberth added 12 to help Missouri State upset No. 25 Northern Iowa 66-63 and bolster its slim chance for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.Drew Richards added career highs of 10 points and nine rebounds for Missouri State (16-7, 9-6 Missouri Valley Conference), which shot 49 percent from the floor and denied Northern Iowa's bid to take over first place in the league.Hinson -- who back on Jan. 10 declared that the reason the Panthers hadn't cracked the rankings was because they play in such a small market -- now hopes his fellow MVC coaches will stick up for his team and the league as Missouri State looks for a slot in the tournament."I think tonight vaulted us. We've got a legitimate shot, two chances, to go the NCAA's," said Hinson, speaking of both an at-large and the conference's automatic bid. "This is huge for our program. This is huge for our kids."The Bears never trailed in the second half -- but almost gave the game away in the final minute.Northern Iowa's John Little hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 left to bring the Panthers within 64-61. The Bears' Tyler Chaney missed a layup with 29 seconds left, but Grant Stout's rebound was called a jump ball. The Bears retained possession, but Kellen Easley threw the ball away.Ben Jacobson made a pair of free throws to make it 64-63 with 22 seconds to play, and Blake Ahearn threw the ensuing inbounds pass away.Northern Iowa (21-5, 11-4) couldn't capitalize. Jacobson missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Bilyeu converted a pair of foul shots, Eric Coleman turned the ball by mishandling an inbounds pass."It was a pretty good look," said Jacobson. "At the end of a game like that, that's about as good a look as you can ask for."Northern Iowa made The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history two weeks ago. Little scored a career-high 19 points for the Panthers, and Stout and Jacobson each added 11.Jacobson grabbed what would have been a critical steal with 2:18 left before stepping out of bounds. Tyler Chaney responded with a bank shot as the shot clock expired to put the Bears ahead 62-56.The Bears defense slowed down Northern Iowa's offense during the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Little kept the Panthers within striking distance. He hit three baskets in traffic, then made two 3-pointers to bring Northern Iowa within 48-47 with 10 minutes left."We would have been in deep trouble without him," Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott said.Missouri State shot 54 percent in the first half and led 31-27 at the break. Richards, a reserve center, led the way with eight points and eight rebounds as the Bears outscored Northern Iowa 20-12 in the paint in the opening half.Despite the loss, the Panthers remain tied for first in the conference. MVC co-leader Creighton lost to Southern Illinois 74-67 on Saturday."A win tonight would have been huge," Jacobson said. "It would have really put us in the driver's seat."Northern Iowa guard Erik Crawford returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a broken bone in his right foot. He scored six points in 21 minutes.
|FG Made-Attempted||25-51 (.490)||20-49 (.408)|
|3P Made-Attempted||2-8 (.250)||7-25 (.280)|
|FT Made-Attempted||14-17 (.824)||16-18 (.889)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||15 (0/0)||14 (0/0)|