March 14, 2012
(By Nikki Philpot)
PHILADELPHIA - Seth Tuttle converted two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift Northern Iowa to a 67-65 win over Saint Joseph's in the first round of the 2012 NIT at Hagan Arena. NIU (20-13) will advance to meet Drexel in the second round, while Saint Joseph's ends its season at 20-14.
With Saint Joseph's trailing 61-55 with 2:34 remaining, junior Carl Jones drained a three and sank two crucial free throws to bring the Hawks back to within one at 61-60.
Northern Iowa's Anthony James answered with a layup and was fouled on the play but could not convert, extending the Panthers' lead to 63-60 and keeping it a one-possession game.
At the other end of the floor, SJU's Halil Kanacevic grabbed the defensive board and passed it out to Jones who found Aiken in the corner for a three to tie the score at 63-63 with :49 remaining.
Northern Iowa (20-13) responded with a layup by Tuttle at 0:19 left to put the Panthers back ahead, but Jones found sophomore forward Ronald Roberts for a dunk that tied the score 65-65 with :07 left in the game.
NIU pushed the ball back down the court and Tuttle was fouled as he broke in for a layup, setting the stage for his game-winning free throws.
Jones posted his fourth consecutive 20-point game as he recorded 24 points and added a team-high four assists for the Hawks. Sophomore forward C.J. Aiken was the only other Hawk in double figures with 16 points. Kanacevic missed a double-double by just one point, netting nine points while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. "It's a numbers game. They had 14 offensive rebounds, they came in averaging eight. We go 13-for-22 from the foul line. Those numbers in the post season are going to get you," said Hawk coach Phil Martelli. "It's sad to say that the loose ball recovery, we'll look at it and see how many field goals they had after we knocked the ball and they got it back. It wasn't enough tonight. I didn't do enough for them in terms of getting them to really embrace the postseason."
Saint Joseph's outshot Northern Iowa 44.2 percent from the floor (23-for-52) and 28.6 percent from behind the arc (6-for-21) but only converted for 59.1 percent in free throws (13-for-22) as opposed to 80.0 percent shooting from the Panthers. The Hawks registered 10 blocks but were outrebounded by the Panthers, 41-34.
Northern Iowa was led by a career-best 23 points and team-high 11 rebounds from Tuttle. Marc Sonnen and Deon Mitchell chipped in 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Kanacevic slammed down the first two points of the game on a dunk as Saint Joseph's jumped out early on an 11-4 run that saw Aiken and Jones combine for nine of the 11 points.
Northern Iowa cut the deficit to 14-10 at 12:06, but Galloway found Wilson under the basket for a layup and Kanacevic nailed a jumper to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the half at 18-10 with 10:11 to go.
But from there, the teams would manage just a combined two points in the next five minutes, as the Hawks went scoreless.
Down 20-14, Sonnen scored five of the Panthers' next eight points as Northern Iowa went on an 8-1 run to take its first lead of the game, 22-21, with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
Kanacevic sank a free throw to tie the game at 22-22 at 1:02 and then found Aiken under the basket for a layup to give the Hawks the lead, 24-22, heading into the lockerroom.
Down 33-29 at 15:10 in the second half, Roberts slammed down a dunk to bring the Hawks to within two before the Panthers scored five uncontested points to extend their lead back to seven. After a Langston Galloway free throw, Jones responded from beyond the arc to bring the Hawks to within three at 38-35. Kanacevic then grabbed a steal and added a layup to cut the Panther lead, 38-37.
Northern Iowa would strike back with a jumper by Jake Koch at 11:21, but back-to-back jumpers by Aiken and Jones gave the Hawks their first lead from the 17:56 mark.
Northern Iowa would go on a 5-0 run to take the lead, 45-43, before a pair of Aiken free throws tied it back up to 45-45. The Hawks would not allow the Panthers to extend the lead to more than five points over the course of the rest of the half.
"They just dribbled the ball wherever they wanted and shot layups. Across the board, it wasn't one position, it wasn't one guy, it wasn't one guy for us, there were major breakdowns on the ball across the line-up," said Martelli.