The Hawkeyes seemed baffled by Northern Iowa's different defenses early on in the game as they shot only 3-13 (23%) during the first ten minutes of the game. However with Iowa trailing 16-8 with 9:39 remaining in the first half, it was like the Hawkeyes turned on a switch and woke up. Iowa would used a 24-8 run to take what looked like a comfortable 32-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Worley and freshman combo forward Greg Brunner helped get the Hawkeyes rolling offensively as Worley led Iowa in scoring at half with eight points on 2-6 shooting, and Brunner chipped in seven points during the first 20 minutes of play. The Hawkeyes definitely made their presence known on the boards in the first half, especially the offensive boards, as they outscored the Panthers 10-2 on second chance points in the half.
Northern Iowa came out in the second half, a rejuvenated team. The Panthers, who struggled from beyond the arc in the first half shooting just 2-11 (18%), began to knock down those shots in the second half and used a 18-9 run in the first seven minutes of the second half to erase the Hawkeyes eight point halftime lead and take a 42-41 lead with 13:01 remaining in the game.
The Panthers were able to build a five point lead at 50-45 with 7:23 remaining, however Boyd and Worley decided that they had had enough and would score 14 of the Hawkeyes last 18 points to lead Iowa to the hard fought victory.
Over the next three and a half minutes, Boyd knocked down a long three pointer, scored on a great no-look pass from freshman point guard Jeff Horner to tie the game at 50-50, and scored his seventh consecutive point on a back door pass from Worley to put Iowa up 52-50 with 3:57 remaining in the game.
Northern Iowa was able to tie the game at 52-52, but Worley would score down low on another great pass from Horner with 2:38 to put Iowa up 54-52. On Iowa's very next possession, Worley would connect on a three pointer from the left wing that gave the Hawkeyes a five-point cushion at 57-52.
Northern Iowa would hit two free throws to draw within three at 57-54 with 1:38 remaining in the game, however that would be as close as the Panthers would get, as Iowa would go perfect 4-4 from the free throw line in the final minute, and get a break away lay up by Worley to cap off the 63-54 win.
Turnovers were a major issue that had been plaguing the Hawkeyes during the first six games this season, as they had committed 115 total turnovers (19.1/game). However against the Panthers, Iowa did a better job of taking care of the basketball, as they finished the game with a season low nine turnovers, 10 below their season average.
Worley, who without a doubt played his best game of the young season, led the Hawkeyes in scoring with 17 points, grabbed a team high nine rebounds, dished out a team high five assists, and more importantly only turned the basketball over one time in 37 minutes of play.
Boyd, who had been struggling with his shooting, seemed to find the stroke that Iowa fans remember from his freshman season when he helped lead Iowa to the Big Ten Tournament Championship, connected for 12 points on 5-12 shooting from the floor.
Iowa Junior forward Sean Sonderleiter also played his best game of the season as he scored five points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
With the win, Iowa increased their record in the series with Northern Iowa to 29-4. All four Panthers wins have taken place in Cedar Falls.
Iowa now has defeated two instate opponents on the season, and the Hawkeyes will go for the instate sweep this Friday as they host the Iowa State Cyclones at Carver Hawkeye Arena. * Photo Credit to Charlie Neibergall of Associated Press