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LAS VEGAS, Nev. --- Johnny Moran may have fractured his relationship with his father, Jim --- if only briefly --- Wednesday night.

Moran's smile, however, suggested he simply didn't care after his Northern Iowa Panthers staved off his father's alma mater, Indiana, 67-61.

"I think he was on our side tonight," said the younger Moran, grinning, in reference to his father.

Truth be told, everyone was feeling the love after this one as UNI (8-3) held off an Indiana program that owns five national championships.

"That's an excited locker room," noted Panther coach Ben Jacobson after his team advanced to face New Mexico in the title game of the Las Vegas Classic.

Kwadzo Ahelegbe was huge, pouring in a game-high 24 points and shooting 50 percent (7-for-14) from the field. Moran added 15 points, a sum that included four 3-pointers in the game's first six minutes. Lucas O'Rear was also key, pulling down a team-high nine rebounds and dropping in a key, backdoor layup with 1:11 remaining.

This BCS-conference win felt a little like last year's NCAA Tournament triumph over No. 1 Kansas as UNI took control early before fending off a late charge from its foe.

"There's some similarities there," agreed Jacobson, who now has 10 career wins over BCS-conference programs. "We beat a very good team. The guys did a good job of sticking in there."

Indiana (9-3) lost despite getting 23 points and a game-high 10 rebounds from 6-foot-8 matchup nightmare Christian Watford and a career-high 19 points from 6-9 forward Derek Elston. The Hoosiers also won the battles of points in the paint, 26-10, and on the glass, 35-33.

"We just lost the game in the first half is what it boils down to," said Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team trailed, 42-33, at the intermission.

Indiana had the benefit of a decidedly partisan crowd of 2,867 at cozy Orleans Arena, but it mattered not as the Panthers played with intensity throughout.

"Hey, the crowd can't do anything," said Ahelegbe. "All they can do is cheer."

This was the first meeting ever between these two Midwestern schools, and UNI introduced itself with authority early. A prompt barrage of Moran 3-pointers helped the Panthers inch out to a 29-26 advantage after 13 minutes.

Then, Ahelegbe took the wheel and steered UNI to a comfortable lead, draining a pair of quick long balls, including a roughly 25-footer. UNI made 8 of 16 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. Conversely, Indiana shot just 15.4 percent for the game (2-for-13) from beyond the arc.

"That was probably one of our best offensive games," said Ahelegbe, whose squad shot 48.3 percent in the first half.

UNI, a winner in seven of its last eight games, had to withstand a few body-blows down the stretch, though. Watford was a menace, scoring 15 points after halftime, including a post-up bucket that knotted things at 59-all with 2:33 to go.

The Panthers displayed grit from there on out as Moran produced a reverse layup for the go-ahead basket, which O'Rear followed up with his clutch, backdoor lay-in.

Jacobson said O'Rear's lay-up was especially key.

Indiana "switched to zone in the middle of that possession," Jacobson explained. "Give the guys credit: they got the ball where they needed to."

Indiana's tradition is well-documented, yet it remains eye-opening. The Hoosiers own the best in-conference winning percentage (nearly .600) of any Big Ten team, and they own 1,660 overall wins in their history.

Wednesday, however, won't be remembered fondly in the Hoosier state.

This contest ended with purple-clad fans chanting "U-N-I! ... U-N-I! ... U-N-I!"

"They're a very good team - we knew that," said Crean. "They've got a great program."

"It feels great," said Moran, who went 5-for-8 from the field.

"We've gotten a lot better," said Jacobson, "over the last month."

SHORT SHOTS: Since 1989, UNI is 5-0 in games played in Las Vegas. ... UNI is now 6-0 this season when shooting a higher percentage than its opponent.

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

Hulls 29 0-2 2-2 3 2 0 2

 

Watford 35 7-13 8-10 10 2 2 23

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Creek 25 1-8 0-0 3 2 4 2

Jones 28 1-8 5-6 1 2 5 7

Elston 31 8-9 2-4 4 0 3 19

Oladipo 12 1-3 2-6 2 0 2 4

Rivers 20 1-1 0-0 3 0 1 2

Sheehey 5 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Moore 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Capobianco 0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 0

Pritchard 8 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0

Roth 4 1-3 0-0 0 0 1 2

Team 8

Totals 200 20-47 19-29 35 9 20 61

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

Ahelegbe 34 7-14 8-10 5 4 3 24

 

Moran 35 5-8 1-2 3 1 2 15

Koch 26 4-8 0-0 4 1 4 11

O'Rear 26 2-4 2-2 9 2 3 6

James 26 2-9 2-2 2 1 0 6

Rank 18 0-2 2-2 3 0 4 2

Morrison 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Sonnen 22 0-2 1-2 2 1 2 1

Pehl 10 1-2 0-0 3 0 3 2

Team 2

Totals 200 21-49 16-20 33 10 21 67

Indiana 33 28 - 61

Northern Iowa 42 25 - 67

3-point goals - Indiana 2-13 (Hulls 0-2, Watford 1-3, Creek 0-4, Jones 0-1, Elston 1-1, Roth 0-2); UNI 9-23 (Ahelegbe 2-5, Moran 4-6, Koch 3-5, O'Rear 0-1, James 0-2, Rank 0-2, Sonnen 0-2). Turnovers - Indiana 14 (Jones 5); UNI 14 (O'Rear 4). Blocks - Indiana 2 (Watford 1, Creek 1). Steals - Indiana 7 (Jones 2); UNI 6 (Sonnen 2).

Officials - Gladin, Spainhour, Comer. Att. - 2,867.

 

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