By Tyler Jones
ST. LOUIS- While Northern Iowa only led Saturday’s contest by a total of 2:55 minutes, they led the most important, when the final buzzer sounded in overtime.
Northern Iowa Head Coach Ben Jacobson opened his postgame presser putting the game in perspective, simply stating, “What a game.”
The reigning Missouri Valley Tournament Champion, Northern Iowa knocked off Wichita State Saturday afternoon, but they may have knocked them out of something else as well. With the win, the Panthers saved their NCAA Tournament hopes, but possibly ended the Shockers chances of making it to the big dance.
Wichita State opened the game on a 10-0 run in the 8:29 of the first half. The Shockers held the Panthers to just 26.9% shooting in the 1st. Despite the quick start though, the Shockers only led Northern Iowa by just 6 at the break.
Later on in the second half, Northern Iowa got its’ first taste of a tie game, when the Panthers went on a 5-0 run from 8:03-6:15 mark to tie the game at 41 all.
After a layup from Van Vleet, Wichita State pulled ahead by two with 3:15 left. Northern Iowa would respond though with a layin by Lohaus, to tie the game at 47.
In the final seconds of regulation, the Shockers had a chance to win it, but Van Vleet missed a jumper at the buzzer and sent the game to overtime, tied at 47.
In the overtime period, each team went back and forth, with the game still tied with 2:01 remaining. Jeremy Morgan answered the call for the Panthers with the go-ahead three, to put Northern Iowa ahead 55-52 with 1:18 left.
Wichita State would have their chance to answer. With time winding down, the Shockers would call on former Kansas Jayhawk Conner Frankamp to take their final crack at tieing the game, but Frankamp could not get a shot off in time and was called for a shot clock violation. Northern Iowa would go on to win 57-52 in overtime.
For the game, each team struggled shooting. The Shockers shot just 31.7% from the field, while Northern Iowa’s percentage was not much higher at 36.5%. Wichita State was held to 2-24 from 3-point range for the game.
Wes Washpun led Northern Iowa in scoring with 20 points, followed by 9 points from Matt Bohannon. Grady led the Shockers in points with 14, followed by 12 from Ron Baker. Baker (Citizen Potawatomi) was 0-5 from 3-point range.
Baker took responsibility for the lack of offense saying, “I wasn’t able to step up, one-two in my shot and get a basket when my team needed me, and a lot of that is on my shoulders.”
After the loss, Wichita State will have to wait on their NCAA Tournament hopes until Selection Sunday.
Head Coach Gregg Marshall spoke on the team’s postseason future saying, “We’re going to play again. It’s going to be in the NCAA Tournament, and if not, the NIT.” The Shockers are guaranteed a spot in the NIT if they do not make the NCAA.
With the win, Northern Iowa controls its’ own destiny to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers will face Evansville on Sunday in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship Game.