Sharpshooting Panthers pull away from Iona

CEDAR FALLS – Three-pointers dropped with ease for both teams Saturday.

The same couldn’t be said at the free throw line, where the Panthers found enough separation to secure the win.

Earning a nine-point advantage at the stripe, UNI closed its non-conference campaign with a 90-78 victory over Iona Saturday at the McLeod Center.

Deon Mitchell led UNI with a game-high 20 points and Nate Buss scored 19 off the bench as the Panthers made 18-of-22 free throws, while Iona made 9-of-16.

Both teams attempted 14 free throws in the second half with UNI making 12, while Iona made just seven.

The Panthers (6-6) tied a season-high with 12 3-pointers including nine in the first half, while shooting 46 percent for the game and 51 percent from the field. Iona (5-6) also made nine in the opening stanza and connected on 13 of its 26 3-point attempts, while shooting 48 percent on its field goals.

Mitchell made four of his six 3-point attempts, while Chip Rank finished 4-of-8 from deep with 14 points. Seth Tuttle racked up 11 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal.

Sean Armand made two free throws to pull Iona within 71-64 with 8:13 left, but fouled out 15 seconds later when he picked up his fourth foul and was assessed a technical after arguing the call. Armand finished with 18 points in 30 minutes of action.

UNI led by 15 in the second half before Iona pulled within 78-72 with 4:39 remaining on back-to-back 3-pointers by DaShawn Gomez and Mike Poole. Tuttle answered with a 3-point play and the Gaels got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Ryden Hines paced Iona (5-6) with 19 points as both he and Armand finished 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. Gomez added 14 points – shooting 4-for-6 from deep – and Poole had 11 as Iona lost its fourth straight after starting the season 5-2.

The Panthers led by as many as 11 in the first half, though Iona trimmed the deficit to 49-47 at the half. Consecutive baskets by Armand and Poole gave the Gaels a 51-49 edge though UNI retaliated with a 7-0 run capped by a Rank triple around four minutes into the second half.

UNI reached the 90-point plateau for the second time this season and the Panthers’ bench outscored Iona 33-19. Wes Washpun added nine points, Max Martino had eight and Jeremy Morgan six.

The Panthers open Missouri Valley Conference play Wednesday at home against Bradley. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.