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Northern does it again

No. 14 Hawkeyes upset for second time in three seasons by Panthers

Posted: Tuesday December 9, 2003 11:16PM; Updated: Wednesday December 10, 2003 1:30AM
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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) -- Erik Crawford made a couple of tough shots look easy.

Crawford scored a career-high 24 points and hit two late 3-pointers with the shot clock about to expire, lifting Northern Iowa to a 77-66 victory over No. 24 Iowa on Tuesday night.

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Northern Iowa (3-3) had been 0-for-14 on 3-pointers before hitting three straight in the final 51/2 minutes to pull away from the Hawkeyes (6-1), who broke into the Top 25 for the first time this season Monday.

"Those are easy shots to shoot when the shot clock is running down," said Crawford, who hadn't scored more than nine points in a game this season. "All you can do is catch and shoot. There's not a whole lot of time to think about it."

It was the second straight time Northern Iowa upset a nationally ranked Iowa team in Cedar Falls. Iowa was ranked 11th when it lost 78-76 here in 2001.

Northern Iowa sprung its latest upset only three days after losing at home to Furman.

"I hope we can build on this," Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott said. "Now they know what they're capable of. The difference between this year and two years ago is everyone thought we could win this one."

Crawford also played solid defense on Iowa's Pierre Pierce, who led the Hawkeyes with 15 points but went 0-for-6 with just one point in the second half. Jared Reiner scored 12 for Iowa and Jeff Horner 11.

"We looked tired. Now we get some rest," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "Seven games in 15 days was a demanding stretch. The last six minutes ... was about as bad as we've played."

Northern Iowa was holding a 64-61 lead and the shot clock was about to run out when Crawford launched a high arching 3-point shot from the left wing. The shot-clock buzzer sounded while the ball was in the air and it dropped through the net for a 67-61 lead with 3:02 remaining.

"The was probably the play of the game," Northern Iowa's David Gruber said. "He shot with confidence. It was kind of a desperation shot, but he stepped up and set his feet and knocked it down. That was huge."

After Horner made a free throw, Northern Iowa again milked the clock and Brooks McKowen kicked the ball out to Crawford. This time, he nailed a 3 from just left of the key with 2 seconds on the shot clock, giving the Panthers 70-62 lead with 2:08 to play.

Two free throws by McKowen made it 72-62, a big enough cushion for Northern Iowa to hold on. Crawford and McKowen, a freshman, each sank two free throws in the final minute to secure the victory.

McKowen finished with 15 points and Matt Schneiderman added 11 for Northern Iowa. Crawford's previous best had been 14 points as a freshman at Bowling Green two years ago.

"I thought Crawford got away from us. He had a big game," Alford said. "And I just love what Brooks McKowen did. I thought he was outstanding. He ran the show, he was a vocal leader, he made shots, he distributed. I thought he and Crawford were the difference."

It was 39-all at halftime and neither team could pull away from the other until Northern Iowa finally connected from long range.

After Iowa tied it at 59 on Greg Brunner's three-point play, McKowen hit Northern Iowa's first 3 of the night with 5:27 left to break the tie and the Panthers led the rest of the way.

Iowa shot 55 percent in the first half but was just 9-for-30 in the second half, including 1-for-11 on 3-pointers.

"It was a fabulous win for us," McDermott said. "I said yesterday and several times to the media that this team has baffled me because we practice so much better than we played. I really felt sooner or later we'd put it all together, and tonight we did."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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