CEDAR FALLS — Coming off a difficult tournament in the Bahamas last week, Ben Jacobson was looking for a nice, comfortable win in his team’s first game since returning stateside.

While securing the desired win, Wednesday’s matchup with UNLV was anything but comfortable.

Bennett Koch scored 30 points, Klint Carlson added 23 — both career highs — and Northern Iowa used a decisive 9-0 run to pull away for a 77-68 overtime win over previously unbeaten UNLV in Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge Wednesday at the McLeod Center.

Trailing by a point, the Panthers’ chances of reaching the extra period looked to be slipping away in the closing seconds of regulation. Trying to push the ball after a Carlson steal, Koch attempted to throw a pass to the perimeter while dribbling to the paint, but sailed it to where it was clearly headed out of bounds.

But before a turnover could be recorded, a foul was called on UNLV’s Jovan Mooring, who attempted to slide into position but was called for a block.

Koch proceeded to hit 1-of-2 at the line, and following a missed Rebel shot at the buzzer, the game headed to overtime.

Playing against a potential lottery pick in UNLV freshman center Brandon McCoy, Koch imposed his will in the paint for much of the night, finishing 10-of-19 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the foul line.

“People are talking about how he’s going to be a lottery pick, so I wanted to go out there and see how I could play against an NBA-level play,” Koch said. “I think I did all right.”

Though he struggled offensively, shooting just 1-of-8, UNI freshman Tywhon Pickford continued his dominant performance on the glass, and the 11th of his 12 rebounds turned the game in the Panthers’ favor for good.

Following a Spencer Haldeman 3-point miss, Pickford skied above two Rebel defenders for a tip in that proved to be his only made field goal of the game.

From there, Koch and Carlson iced the game, scoring on the ensuing two possessions of what became a 9-0 run.

The game was a long-awaited offensive breakthrough for Carlson, who had scored in double-figures just once in the previous seven games.

“It feels good to be able to score the ball like I did tonight,” Carlson said. “I was just trying to be aggressive and make plays.”

The offense did enough to support another strong defensive effort. The Panthers (6-2) forced 20 turnovers and, despite the extra period, held a Rebel offense that was scoring more than 96 points a game coming in nearly 30 points below its average.

“The guys have made just a huge step forward in terms of how much they believe that defense and rebounding matter,” Jacobson said. “When they’re guarding it looks like it matters to them. When they’re rebounding it looks like it matters. That’s what’s made the difference in our play in the last four games.”

What also mattered to the Panthers afterwards was a much-needed break from game action.

Just days after returning from a three-game-in-three-day marathon that was the Battle 4 Atlantis, UNI players were visibly tired after a highly physical matchup with the previously unbeaten Rebels.

While things don’t get easier with a strong Texas-Arlington squad on the schedule, the Panthers get a needed opportunity for rest, as that game follows an eight-day layoff.

Following Wednesdays grueling affair, players say they’re planning to take full advantage of a day off from practice Thursday.

“It’s going to feel great,” Koch said. “I’m planning on laying in bed all day.”

LOHAUS GETTING HEALTHY: The long injury saga of Wyatt Lohaus appears to be nearing its end.

Lohaus, who has yet to play this season with a toe injury, was seen running without limitations before Wednesday’s game. Jacobson says the redshirt junior guard has started to make significant progress, and could be ready to practice as early as Friday.

“The last three, four days, he’s done more each day and so far hasn’t had any setbacks,” Jacobson said. “We’ll see how he’s feeling come Friday morning. And if he feels like he’s ready to practice, we’ll practice him on Friday.”

UNI 77, UNLV 68, OT

UNLV Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Clyburn 33 7-8 4-4 6 1 0 20

Juiston 35 6-11 0-0 13 2 5 13

Johnson 43 2-12 2-2 2 5 4 7

Mooring 38 3-17 2-3 3 0 4 10

McCoy 30 4-5 1-3 7 0 4 9

Smith 10 0-0 0-0 1 0 2 0

Hardy 11 1-3 0-0 1 1 0 2

Dembele 10 1-3 0-0 2 0 2 2

Beck 11 1-2 0-0 3 1 0 3

Diong 4 1-1 0-0 3 0 1 2

Team 1

Totals 225 26-62 9-12 42 10 22 68

UNI Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Carlson 41 10-22 3-4 7 1 1 23

Pickford 40 1-8 3-4 12 0 0 5

McCloud 36 1-6 3 4 2 0 2 5

Brown 16 0-1 0-0 0 2 3 0

Koch 32 10-19 10-13 7 1 20 30

Friedman 7 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0

Rhodes 9 3-3 0-0 2 0 0 7

Haldeman 34 2-5 2-2 3 1 2 7

McDonnell 5 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Phyfe 5 0-1 0-0 0 0 5 0

Team 4

Totals 225 27-66 21-27 38 5 15 77

UNLV 29 32 7 — 68

UNI 34 27 16

3-point goals—UNL 7-20 (Mooring 2-10, Kpjmspm 2-2, Johnson 1-6, Juiston 1-1, Beck 1-1), UNI 2-14 (Haldeman 1-4, Rhodes 1-1, Pickford 0-4, McCloud 0-2, Carlson 0-1, Phyfe 0-1) Steals—UNLV 6 (Juiston 3, Mooring 2, Clyburn 1) UNI 13 (Carlson 3, Koch 3, McCloud 2, Rhodes 2, Pickford 1, Haldeman 1, McDonnell 1). Blocks — UNLV 3 (Diong 2), UNI 1 (Koch 1). Turnovers — UNLV 20, UNI 9.

Officials—Harris, McCall, Spaulding. Att.—4,446

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Sports Reporter

Sports Writer at the Courier

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