IOWA CITY, Iowa - Northern Iowa came into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday night and pushed the home team around for most of the first half. The Panthers led by seven points with less than four minutes to play before the intermission and clearly was the aggressor.
Iowa's Jake Kelly responded and his teammates followed him. He scored five points and assisted on a 3-pointer as Iowa closed out the half on an 8-0 run. Iowa then scored the first five after the break and played from ahead the rest of the way.
The Hawkeyes defeated Northern Iowa, 65-46, in front of an announced crowd of 9,435. Iowa held the visitors to nine points for a 17-minute stretch from late in the first half until under 7 minutes remaining in the game. Iowa built a double-digit lead in that time.
Iowa struggled to get a post game going with starting center Cyrus Tate being corralled by the Panther defense and backup Andrew Brommer dealing with foul trouble. Kelly opened things up with dribble penetration.
"I wasn't looking to take over the game," Kelly said. "I was just trying to take what was there."
Kelly netted a game-high 19 points to go with 4 assists and no turnovers. He matched his career high for scoring, equaling his total at Northern Iowa a year ago. Jeff Peterson followed Kelly's lead in taking it to the basket and finished with 18 and handing out five assists. Matt Gatens benefited from the Kelly penetration, connecting on 4-of-5 three-points attempts en route to 14 points.
Northern Iowa did a good job early working around the Hawkeyes' ball screens, but Iowa adjusted by using Tate to pick for Kelly and Peterson penetration.
"Give a lot of credit to Cyrus," Peterson said. "He really didn't score a lot of points tonight, but he set back screens so we could get to the basket.
Said Kelly: "He was screening on every side of the court. He has to be really tired right now. (Jordan) Egleseder was guarding him so we tried to wear him down getting up and down the court and use our quickness to get around him and get into the lane."
The 7-0 Eglseder gave Iowa fits early, scoring six points in the game's opening 11 minutes. But he managed just two points the rest of the way thanks to some suffocating defense by Tate.
"I'll be honest, that's not what I was thinking at first," Tate said of having to be a defensive stopper. "After that first half, I realized, hey, hey we've got to get Jordan stopped. I can't let him take the game over."
Iowa raised its record to 8-2 on the season as it prepares to take on Iowa State this Friday. The Panthers dropped to 5-4 and 0-2 in the in-state series.
"They're going to be much better," Jacobson said when asked to compare these Hawkeyes to the ones he faced last year in Cedar Falls. "They have more guys that can handle it and a number of guys that can make three-points shots. They're unselfishness is the key. That's something you can really build on and I think they're doing that."
Iowa turned the ball over just five times, a new low in a season plus under coach Todd Lickliter, and handed out 11 assists. The Hawkeyes enjoyed an 17-4 advantage in points off of turnovers.
"I thought this was a good test for us," Lickliter said. "The final score was not indicative of how competitive it was. Northern Iowa is a team that tests you and in the first half they had control a lot."
Iowa trailed 22-15 late in the first half before going on an 8-0 to end the opening 20 minutes. Both teams played physical and effective defense.
The Hawkeyes were thinned out up front when Brommer went to the bench with his third foul with about 11 minutes left before the intermission. He then picked up No. 4 in less than a minute of action early in the second half.
UNI took advantage of the situation with Eglseder and Koch each scoring six points before the break. Tate was held to two points, as Kelly (7), Gatens (6) and Peterson (5) scored 18 of Iowa's 23.
Iowa did not shoot a free throw in the first half and was outrebounded, 14-11.
Iowa played without leading scorer, Anthony Tucker, who is suspended indefinitely after being charged with public intoxication last weekend. He watched the game from the bench, and the Hawkeyes played well in his absence.
"It's only a distraction if you make it one," Peterson said. "We knew we had to focus. We had a tough opponent tonight. We just did a really good job of staying focused and getting the win."
Lickliter was asked after the game if Tucker would return for the Iowa State contest.
"I really don't have an answer for that today," the coach said. "I'm sorry."
Asked if he had a timetable for Tucker's return, Lickliter said, "No,. we don't."