Tuesday , Mar , 09 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Panthers outlast SMS in double OT

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – Ben Jacobson scored 10 of his game-high 26
points in overtime, as Northern Iowa captured its first ever Mountain Valley
Conference Tournament title with a 79-74 double-overtime win against Southwest
Missouri State at the Savvis Center.

David Gruber has 12 points and eight rebounds for the Panthers (21-9), who
captured their second ever bid to the NCAA tournament. Pete Schmit had 10
points in the win.

“He’s got some big shoulders,” Gruber said of Jacobson. “He had to carry us
the majority of the night, and when a guy like that steps up it makes
everybody want to play harder.”

Merrill Andrews paced Southwest Missouri State with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony Shavies had 12 points as the Bears (19-14) failed to ride the emotion
of Sunday’s upset of 15th-ranked Southern Illinois. SMS was taking part in its
first championship game since the 2000 season.

Blake Ahearn drained two free throws early in the second overtime to give the
Bears a 64-62 lead. Jacobson, though, followed with a long three and Northern
Iowa grabbed a one-point edge.

Gruber, playing with a broken bone in his left wrist, sank two foul shots and
the Panthers had a 67-64 lead with 2:46 to go. After a basket by Monwell
Randle pulled SMS within one, Jacobson and Matt Schneiderman hit back-to-back
threes for a 73-66 advantage.

With 39.9 seconds remaining, Jacobson made 1-of-2 free throws for a 74-68
score. The Bears made it interesting when Andrews buried a jumper for a 76-72
score with 17 seconds left. SMS ran out of comebacks and eventually suffered
the five-point loss.

The Panthers have won two straight versus SMS after a 14-game losing streak.

In the first overtime, Gruber made two free throws to open the scoring and
give Northern Iowa a 53-51 lead. Schmit then made 1-of-2 from the stripe for a
54-51 advantage.

With the Panthers ahead by a 56-55 score, Schmit was fouled beyond the arc
with 38.8 seconds left and made all three free throws for a four-point lead.

“I knew at the beginning of the season that we were capable of winning this
tournament,” Schmit said after the game. “This is the vision I had when I
transferred here.”

Nathan Bilyeu later made two foul shots for the Bears and the deficit was
trimmed to 59-57. Schmit, however, made two more foul shots and the Panthers
owned a 61-57 cushion.

After Ahearn’s three-pointer made it 61-60 with 15.2 seconds left, Schmit made
1-of-2 from the line and Northern Iowa had a 62-60 lead. SMS wasn’t done, as
Andrews tied the game on a jumper in the paint with 3.7 seconds on the clock.

Freshman guard Brooks McKowen of Northern Iowa had a chance for the win but
his desperation three-pointer at the buzzer fell short, forcing another
overtime.

“You know, we could have hung our heads when they came back on us,” Jacobson
said. “We took charge and put them down and got the win.”

Erik Crawford’s jumper early in the first half staked Northern Iowa to a 10-2
advantage. The Panthers grabbed a 15-8 edge midway through the period thanks
to another Crawford basket.

Monwell Randle and Tamarr Maclin later scored consecutive baskets for
Southwest Missouri State, making it 21-14 with less than five minutes to go
before halftime.

Jacobson’s three-pointer put Northern Iowa ahead by a 29-20 score and the
Panthers eventually carried a 29-22 lead into the locker room.

Jacobson buried another three-pointer and threw down a two-handed dunk in
succession almost four minutes into the second half to put Northern Iowa ahead
36-24.

The Panthers later took a 41-26 lead on Gruber’s three-point play at the 13:06
mark of the second half. SMS scored two quick baskets, but Pete Schmit knocked
down a three minutes later and Northern Iowa had a seemingly comfortable 44-30
advantage.

Southwest Missouri State scored nine of the next 11 points to close within
46-39. Then, with 7:15 left in the game, Shavies sank a pair of foul shots and
the Bears were down, 48-43.

Eric Smith then made 1-of-2 free throws for SMS and the lead was trimmed to
48-44 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the game. The Bears continued to claw
their way back and two foul shots by Shavies made it 48-46 with 5:43 left.

Momentum was in favor of the Bears, who tied the game at 48 apiece on two free
throws by Shavies with less than five minutes to go. Both teams missed crucial
shots until Jacobson’s fade-away jumper gave Northern Iowa a 50-48 lead.

After Southwest Missouri State tied the game at 50-50 on an Andrews jump shot,
the Panthers took a 51-50 lead on 1-of-2 free throws by Schneiderman with 25.8
seconds left.

Andrews was then sent to the charity stripe with 16.1 seconds left and he made
1-of-2 foul shots to even the score. Crawford then had two chances in the
waning seconds for the win but missed both attempts to force overtime.

“When you get this close to getting to the tournament, it’s going to sting and
hurt for a long time,” Andrews said. “We fought hard, but they did what they
had to do to win.”

NIOWA SWMISSOURI