"This team doesn't know how to win yet," coach Greg McDermott said. "We weren't in this position much last year and we have to compete a little harder and execute a little bitter offensively."
In this tight in-state rivalry game, Iowa State had a 59-58 lead with three minutes remaining and had the ball with just inside of a minute to go. LaRon Dendy took a quick shot, however, and Ali Farokhmanesh took the rebound and went down and stuck a three with 34 seconds left.
Diante Garrett, who led the Cyclones with 15 points, then hit one of two free throws to make it 61-60 but the Panthers' Kwadzo Ahelegbe drilled two free throws to extend the lead back to three. Lucca Staiger and Craig Brackins both missed desperation threes in the last 15 seconds.
"There were just plays that you wish you could have back," Brackins said. "We missed some shots late and they made them."
Garrett said the Panthers (5-1) just did a good job of defending the sets Iowa State tried to run late in the game. "We were just running off a lot of screens and they defended it pretty good," Garrett said. "Craig was our last option on that last play and got a good shot but they were all over him."
Brackins had 13 points and nine rebounds and Marcus Gilstrap had 11 points and eight rebounds but the Panthers' dominance on the glass may have decided the game. Northern Iowa held a 38-31 advantage on the glass, including a 15-7 lead on the offensive boards. "If we get some of those defensive rebounds, the game changes," Garrett said.
Adam Koch had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers but the difference on the glass may have been UNI 7-footer Jordan Eglseder, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds, including seven offensive caroms.
Eglseder's big play was no more apparent when Iowa State led 57-52. After scoring two baskets to pull Northern Iowa within one, Eglseder got consecutive offensive rebounds and put the second one home to give the Panthers the lead. Craig Brackins got Iowa State the lead back with two free throws to set up the late game events.
"It very obvious that UNI was the tougher team tonight and that is disheartening," McDermott said. "There were loose balls and there were too many purple shirts on the floor and not enough white shirts."
A 12-2 Iowa State run midway through the first half gave the Cyclones a 17-10 lead but Northern Iowa was able to whittle the lead down to 34-31 just before half. A Diante Garrett layup at the first half buzzer did give Iowa State a five-point lead at the break.
Northern Iowa took its first lead since early in the game after scoring nine of the first 11 points of the second half at 40-38. A Farokhmanesh three made it 43-40 but Iowa State went on another 12-2 run that was started by three by Garrett and Scott Christopherson and punctuated by a dunk from Gilstrap.
That lead could have gotten bigger but Iowa State committed two of its 14 turnovers with a four-point lead.
McDermott said he may have to take more control with his young team late in games.
"We just have to be more consistent in what we do," McDermott said.