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CEDAR FALLS — A 17-point comeback extended the Northern Iowa men’s basketball winning streak to four games Tuesday night in an 80-74 overtime thriller against Indiana State.
The Sycamores (8-7, 1-2 MVC), who dressed just seven players coming off a COVID-19 pause that began on Jan. 2, kept the Panthers out of rhythm most of the game while withstanding foul trouble due to their short bench.
“(Indiana State) outplayed us,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “They earned a win today and we got lucky and had more points than they did when the game was over. The other thought is, I give our guys credit for (being) down 17 — they’re really outplaying us — and find a way to get back in the game with enough time (left).”
Entering overtime tied at 72, Indiana State played without its best available player in Cameron Henry, who fouled out with 18 points and 49 seconds remaining in regulation.
The extra period proved unkind to the short-handed Sycamores, as they went 1-of-8 from the field while allowing the Panthers to get six of their eight overtime points at the free throw line.
Henry’s fifth foul near the end of regulation ultimately paved the way for overtime.
AJ Green followed the over-the-back foul with two free throws, tying the game at 70 with 49 seconds to play.
Micah Thomas’ backdoor layup went wide on the following possession, but Bowen Born’s attempt at taking a charge was ruled a block and two free throws later the Sycamores were back up 72-70. Green answered again though, hitting a step-back jumper, and Thomas’ layup at the buzzer went wide.
“Guys continued to battle,” Jacobson said. “We made a lot of good plays from the 12-minute mark through the end of regulation and in overtime. I’m really proud of our guys for doing that. But, fundamentally, defensively, our footwork, awareness — they really outplayed us. They didn’t do anything different.”
Trailing 38-30 at halftime, Noah Carter sparked the Panthers’ comeback. The sophomore forward hit all four of his 3s in the second half — two of them on back-to-back possessions — and converted a three-point play with 8:50 remaining to bring the game back within a possession at 57-54.
“(Carter is) playing great basketball,” Jacobson said. “Our team needed those (points) tonight because we were in a tough spot, but he’s been doing that now four games in a row. And he’s done it in other games.”
Born, who registered a season-high 36 minutes, made multiple key plays in the second half as well, including a game-tying 3 with 5:01 to play.
“This is as healthy as he’s been. He’s really close to 100-percent right now,” Jacobson said. “We’ve got him and AJ and Trae (Berhow) and Nate (Heise) and Noah (and) you’ve got to guard all of them all the time. That’s been a good lineup for us.”
Carter led the Panthers with 17 points and was joined in double figures by Green (16), Born (14) and Heise (10).
UNI travels to Southern Illinois (9-5, 2-0) Saturday for a 7 p.m. tip at Banterra Center (ESPN+).