Panthers’ late surge sinks Drake, 76-66

CEDAR FALLS – Closing the game on a 23-8 blitz, the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team rallied in the final seven minutes for a 76-66 victory Saturday over Drake at the McLeod Center.

Deon Mitchell and Wes Washpun scored 17 points apiece in the Missouri Valley Conference contest as the Panthers (9-7, 3-1) improved to 6-0 at home this season. UNI trailed 58-53 with 6:58 to play before Nate Buss knocked down his first 3 of the game to spark the run. Matt Bohannon and Buss added back-to-back treys to put the Panthers up 66-61 with 3 minutes left and Washpun’s free throw followed layups from Mitchell and Seth Tuttle to stretch the lead to 11 with 41 seconds to go.

“For 35 minutes of the game we put ourselves in position and we need to be able to finish games and finish the last four or five minutes,” said Drake coach Ray Giacoletti.

“That’s winning time and it’s pretty black-and-white. They (UNI) spread you out and have shooters. We have to be able to find a way to get stops.”

Bohannon and Tuttle each finished with 11 points, while Buss added 10 off the bench. Tuttle grabbed eight rebounds and Washpun had seven as UNI held a 35-31 edge on the glass.

Jordan Daniels led the Bulldogs (10-6, 1-3) with 18 points, Aaron Hawley had 11 and Richard Carter tallied nine points, six rebounds and six assists. Marshalltown Community College grad Chris Caird added eight points, while Seth Van Deest recorded seven points and seven boards.

The Bulldogs led by seven at 11:15 in the first half but trailed 37-34 at intermission. Drake connected on 5 of its 11 3-point attempts in opening stanza but missed 10-of-13 the rest of the way.

UNI shot 46 percent from 3-point land in the second half after making just 3-of-14 in the opening frame and made. The Panthers shot 50 percent from the field and outscored the Bulldogs 14-2 in fast-break points.

“The transition baskets are hard to swallow and we’ve got to be better at slowing people down, especially when we’re sending three back,” Giacoletti said.

UNI travels to Southern Illinois Tuesday to take on the Salukis at 7 p.m. Drake will try to snap a three-game skid Wednesday against MVC newcomer Loyola on the road with tip-off set for 7 p.m.