DEKALB, Ill. -- Two different versions of Northern Iowa's offense were displayed on the two-toned court inside Northern Illinois’ Convocation Center.
UNI showcased depth, a variety of actions, strong decision making, fluid ball movement and efficient shooting to pull away with a 16-point halftime lead. The Panthers then survived a lull throughout the majority of the second half during a 64-54 victory in their road opener in front of a sparse Saturday afternoon crowd of 1,003.
Early on, UNI (2-0) looked ready to brush aside an ugly 58-point output that included a 6 of 31 3-point shooting performance during their season-opening home win against Old Dominion’s stingy defense.
With Northern Illinois (0-1) holding UNI’s top three perimeter shooters AJ Green, Spencer Haldeman and Trae Berhow scoreless in the first half, Tywhon Pickford was active off the dribble, centers Austin Phyfe and James Betz led an 18-8 scoring advantage in the paint, and Isaiah Brown and Noah Carter were a perfect 5-for-5 from distance during a 40-point ambush through the opening 20 minutes.
“We came out with great pace and moved the ball very well, and then our creativity with the offense opened up everything and got them on their heels,” said Pickford, who finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists. “I’ve been working on it a lot in my workouts, penetrating, creating for others, or creating for myself in the offense, where I can get in and help.”
By the time Green and Berhow knocked down their first 3-pointers, the Panthers held a 48-28 lead just over three minutes into the second half. That advantage, however, evaporated as Northern Illinois became more aggressive and pushed UNI’s centers off the elbow and top of the key in dribble-handoffs.
A stagnant UNI offense was held to four points over an 11-minute stretch in which Northern Illinois cut its deficit to 52-47 with six minutes remaining. It marked the second time in as many games where UNI’s offense stalled.
“I give Northern Illinois credit,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “They got out and guarded us a little harder and denied our five man at the top which slows that offense down.
“I’ve just got to do a better job. It’s happened in both games, and it’s my job to fix it and help guys get into spots. … We’ll work together on the practice floor so we have a better look come Wednesday.”
Black Hawk 59, Arkansas State Mid-South 58: Terry Ford hit an 8-foot runner with less than a second remaining Saturday to lift Black Hawk past 21st-ranked Arkansas State Mid-South at the John Wood Classic in Quincy.
The Braves (3-2) trailed by four in the final minute before Ben Buresh buried a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left. Jayin Trumbull recorded a steal on the press to give the Braves the ball to set up Ford's game winner.
Derek Tipler led Black Hawk with 11 points.
Augustana 59, Luther 58: Maddie Murillo converted a three-point play with less than 2 1/2 minutes left to break a tie game and Augustana hung on for its first win of the season Saturday afternoon at the Carver Center.
Former Rock Island standout Justice Edell had a team-high 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists for Augustana (1-1). Alexis Jones chipped in 14 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Luther (0-2) had a chance to win the game, but Coranda Vickerman's 3-point try missed the mark at the horn.
Augustana had nine different players score in the game. It limited Luther to 33 percent shooting, including 3 of 20 from beyond the arc.
Mount Mercy 85, St. Ambrose 77: Mount Mercy built a 13-point lead at halftime and did enough to hold on in the second half to beat St. Ambrose at the Hennessey Rec Center in Cedar Rapids.
Sofia Popp had 24 points for Mount Mercy (1-2).
Charlotte Flynn led three St. Ambrose players in double figures with 24 points. Kylie Wroblewski and Jamie Martens each had 14 points.
The Queen Bees (2-2) shot just 9 of 30 in the opening half before shooting at a 61-percent clip in the closing two quarters.
Northern Iowa 61, Wichita State 50: North Scott graduated Karli Rucker scored a game-high 18 points and UNI went on the road to beat Wichita State on Saturday afternoon.
The Shockers led throughout the first half, but the Panthers (2-0) closed the third quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 42-39 lead. Wichita State cut the lead to one, but Rucker responded with a 3-pointer with 7:46 left to give UNI a four-point cushion.
Megan Maahs and Kamryn Finley each had 11 points for the Panthers.