Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery reacts to a call against his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northern Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall
December 20, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Northern Iowa will head into Missouri Valley play confident it can compete for the title after beating its third Power 5 opponent.

Iowa will head into the Big Ten season unsure if it can shoot well enough to compete for a decent finish.

Paul Jesperson scored 10 points and Northern Iowa rallied to beat Iowa 56-44 on Saturday and improve to 10-1.

The Panthers held the Hawkeyes (8-4) to a season low in points and bounced back from their first loss of year, a 93-87 double-overtime defeat at VCU last week.

Northern Iowa opened the second half on a 16-3 run, and Matt Bohannon's 3 with 2:02 left put Northern Iowa up 52-43.

''I think we just found a rhythm,'' Northern Iowa senior Seth Tuttle said. ''We talked at halftime about what we had to do. We started to push it in the second half and be more aggressive.''

Mike Gesell had 10 points to lead Iowa, which shot just 27.5 percent. The Hawkeyes finished non-conference play at 1-4 against fellow Power 5 schools and the Panthers, who entered play with an RPI of 25.

Iowa wilted early in the second half of losses to Texas and Iowa State.

The Hawkeyes crumbled yet again versus the Panthers.

Northern Iowa turned a 29-23 halftime deficit into a 39-32 lead as Iowa once again went cold from the field. The Hawkeyes managed just seven points - with eight turnovers - in the first 13:53 of the second half.

Deon Mitchell's layup with 4:37 left gave the Panthers their first double-digit lead, 49-38. Iowa tightened its defense and moved within six, but Bohannon's crucial 3 sealed it for the Panthers.

''Our guys found a second level of defense in the second half,'' Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. ''Our defense is much better than it was a year ago.''

The Hawkeyes went 3 of 24 from the field in the second half.

''I didn't see a ton of horrendous shots,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. ''We shot it maybe a little quick at times, maybe settled for jumpers more than I'd like. We fumbled the ball, fumbled some passes. Things like that seemed to all happen at the same time.''


Northern Iowa: Tuttle had a season-low five points in the loss to VCU last week and was held scoreless in the first half. His first basket tied the game at 29-all early in the second half. Northern Iowa also beat Virginia Tech and Northwestern and outscored its Power 5 opponents by nearly 17 points a game.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes went nearly seven minutes without a basket to open the second half. Peter Jok's step-back jumper ended the drought. Woodbury was 1 of 9 from the floor.


Northern Iowa hosts South Dakota State on Dec. 28.

Iowa hosts North Florida on Dec. 22.


Northern Iowa won its 25th straight game when it held an opponent under 50 points. The Panthers also held Iowa without a fast break point. The Hawkeyes had four players; Gesell, Woodbury, Jok and Aaron White, take at least eight shots and finish at 25 percent or worse shooting. White had nine points and seven rebounds.


No. 13 Iowa State opened Saturday's doubleheader in Iowa's capital city with an 83-54 pounding of Drake. Asked which team was the proverbial state champion, Jacobson said ''Ask `The Mayor,'' referring to Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg's nickname. ''From what I understand, `The Mayor' is never wrong.''


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