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CEDAR FALLS — Playing with their backs to the wall against a last-second NCAA Division III scheduling fill-in, Northern Iowa’s basketball team cranked up the pressure to dodge an upset bid Saturday afternoon inside the McLeod Center.

UNI’s full-court pressure generated 14 second-half turnovers as the Panthers overcame a 10-point deficit to secure a 75-67 victory over the University of Dubuque.

“Obviously this isn’t a game that we’re predicted to win or supposed to win, but the longer we could keep it close, that kind of starts pushing the momentum one direction,” former UNI guard and current Dubuque head coach Robbie Sieverding said. “I thought we did a really good job other than those turnovers.

“We battled hard on the boards. Our bigs really scrapped and so did our guards, and you have to in a game like this. It could get ugly and embarrassing in a heartbeat if you’re not ready to go.”

UNI (4-5) was the team that ended up scrambling to avoid an embarrassing loss. The Panthers turned the ball over five more times than Dubuque in the first half and trailed, 36-34, at intermission after Justin Smith knocked down the Spartans’ eighth 3-pointer in their first 21 attempts.

“We gave them too many looks from the 3-point line, didn’t guard the basketball well enough, got caught moving in and got stuck on the drive,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said.

A Dubuque team that knocked down 13 3-pointers continued to dictate play during the opening minutes of the second half. Michael Williams buried an early 3-pointer and later answered a Tywhon Pickford layup with an offensive rebound and score inside that gave the Spartans a 50-40 advantage.

Following the media timeout with 11:42 remaining, UNI then used its defensive pressure and aggressiveness on offense to respond with a 15-0 go-ahead run. Freshman point guard AJ Green hit a timely 3-pointer during the burst and later found Wyatt Lohaus for a trey that gave the Panthers their first lead, 51-50, since a 34-33 edge with 1:16 left in the first half.

“We were able to get them sped up,” Jacobson said. “We were able to get them trapped ... It completely changed the tempo of the game, completely changed the rhythm that they were in. Fortunately that worked for us.

“You appreciate your guys putting in that kind of stretch so that you have success in a game like that. As we go forward, it’s not something that you can just throw out there each time and expect that you’re going to have that big of a turnaround.”

Dubuque recovered from UNI’s 15-point run and led 59-57 after Jason Barker and Cade Daughtery traded baskets with Green with 4:47 remaining. Green responded with his fourth 3-pointer, Luke McDonnell added a pair of free throws and Isaiah Brown recorded a backcourt steal and emphatic dunk during a 7-0 run that gave UNI the lead for good.

In total, the Panthers finished 28 of 37 from the free throw line, while Dubuque generated just nine free throw attempts with two of its top three scorers fouling out.

Green’s 20 points carried UNI. Center Marcus McDaniel paced Dubuque with 13.

McDonnell added 14 points and Brown finished with 11 for a UNI team that made a concerted effort to find more paint touches after launching 35 3-point attempts during the previous Saturday’s 32-point blowout loss against South Dakota State.

“I think today we were a lot more aggressive,” Green said. “That was something we stressed a lot. We got to the line a lot more today.

“We came together and realized we’re going to score on offense, we’ll make shots. But it’s going to be that defensive end that’s going to get us that win. We were able to do that. We turned them over quite a few times in a row and that led to some easier buckets on offense. We stayed with it the rest of the game and kept aggressive.”

Plenty of work still remains for these Panthers prior to next weekend’s game against Iowa in the Hy-Vee Classic.

“I’ve talked to the guys a little bit this week about just making simple plays and not feeling like you’ve got to hit a grand slam every time something pops up, and trying to do everything you can with one possession,” Jacobson said, addressing his team’s 16 turnovers in this game. “Just make simple plays. There’s no two ways around it. Offensively, we’re out of sorts. We’ve got a week to sharpen.”

PHYFE MAY REDSHIRT: A medical condition that has limited UNI sophomore center Austin Phyfe resurfaced after the Panthers’ road trip to Old Dominion. Phyfe didn’t play Saturday, and has seen only two minutes of court time in the previous two games.

Among the options Jacobson is considering is a medical redshirt. Phyfe can appear in two of UNI’s next six games and still be eligible for the hardship waiver.

“We’re hoping that being back now and in town that he can get into a routine that slows that condition down and he can get to feeling better,” Jacobson said. “Included in our discussions is applying for a redshirt. That condition has really been tough on him the last 10 to 12 days so we’re talking about all possibilities. ... The priority is him being healthy.”

One center who didn’t see any court time in Phyfe’s absence Saturday was 7-footer Justin Dahl. Jacobson cited a match-up issue against Dubuque’s quicker lineup as a factor that kept Dahl on the bench.

“He had a nice week of practice,” Jacobson said. “I had all intentions of playing him today and ended up not.”

UNI 75, Dubuque 67

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

Newsome 25 1-4 2-2 2 2 3 4

Butler 30 3-6 2-2 4 2 5 10

McDaniel 28 4-13 3-4 5 2 3 13

Ragen 21 2-9 0-0 2 1 4 6

Williams 24 4-5 0-0 4 2 5 10

Burger 18 1-6 0-0 2 3 0 3

Bentley 0+ 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 3

Evans 5 1-3 0-0 0 1 0 2

Daugherty 15 3-6 0-0 1 0 0 8

Hundley 9 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0

Thompson 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Daniels 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Barker 16 2-7 1-1 4 1 3 6

Smith 7 1-1 0-0 2 0 3 2

Beckert 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 5

Totals 200 23-62 8-9 34 14 26 67

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

Green 27 6-11 4-4 1 1 4 20

Berhow 18 1-4 1-3 6 1 3 3

Lohaus 28 3-8 2-2 2 1 1 9

Brown 34 2-6 7-8 6 2 1 11

McDonnell 29 4-7 6-10 6 0 0 14

Holterhaus 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Pickford 24 3-3 0-0 4 0 0 0 6

Haynes 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Wentzien 16 2-4 4-4 4 0 0 8

Conrey 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Goldman 8 0-1 3-4 0 0 1 3

Haldeman 16 0-1 1-2 3 2 0 1

Team 3

Totals 200 21-45 28-37 35 7 10 75

Dubuque 36 31 — 67

N. Iowa 34 41 — 75

3-point goals—Dubuque 13-34 (Newsome 0-2, Butler 2-5, McDaniel 2-6, Ragen 2-6, Williams 2-2, Burger 1-4, Bentley 1-1, Daugherty 2-3, Thompson 0-1, Daniels 1-4), UNI 5-19 (Green 4-7, Berhow 0-1, Lohaus 1-3, Brown 0-3, McDonnell 0-1, Wentzien 0-2, Goldman 0-1, Haldeman 0-1). Blocks—Dubuque 2 (Ragen, Williams), UNI 2 (Brown, Goldman). Turnovers—Dubuque 18 (McDaniel 7), UNI 16 (Berhow 6). Steals—Dubuque 9 (Williams, Evans 2), UNI 11 (Lohaus 4).

Officials—Crenshaw, Odneal, Swoboda. Att.—3,314.

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