ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Northern Iowa’s players knew they let a winning opportunity slip by Friday.
The Panthers didn’t let it happen again Saturday, holding off a late challenge from Eastern Kentucky for a 90-85 victory in the consolation round of the Paradise Jam tournament.
A.J. Green scored 23 points to lead five players in double figures for Northern Iowa (2-2), which plays Old Dominion in the tournament’s fourth-place game Monday at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center.
“It really comes down to tightening up some loose things,” Green said. “We played hard, and executing pretty well on offense. It just comes down to a lot of little things.
“Last night, it was turnovers; the first half tonight, it was rebounding. It comes down to a lot of little things we’ve got to tighten up. Once we do that, we should do pretty good,”
The Panthers’ win came just 24 hours after their tournament opener against Penn. There, they led by seven points early in the second half, only to see the Quakers rally for a 78-71 win.
Against the Colonels (2-3), Northern Iowa led by 16 points in the final four minutes, only to see it slip away and nearly disappear.
“It was two very different games,” Panthers coach Ben Jacobson said. “But we’ve got so many young guys, everything we do is a learning experience. This group right now, we’re learning all the time.”
Northern Iowa led 82-66 with 4:02 left, but Eastern Kentucky cut the margin to one point twice, the last at 84-83 on Nick Mayo’s 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining.
The Colonels had a chance to take the lead, but Peyton Broughton missed a layup off a steal with 40 seconds left. Northern Iowa then sealed the win with a 6-2 run.
“We’re a layup away from winning the game,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I’m proud of my guys, because they could’ve easily laid down, but this isn’t the first time we’ve done this. We’re a ‘never give up’ type of team.”
Mayo finished with a game-high 27 points to lead five players in double figures for the Colonels.
OLD DOMINION 65, KENNESAW STATE 47
Ahmad Caver scored 14 points, and the Monarchs pulled away early to beat the Owls in Saturday’s other consolation round game.
B.J. Stith added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Old Dominion (2-2), which led by as many as 23 points in the second half.
“What we told them last night, and again today, was ‘We can’t let Oregon State beat us twice’,” said Monarchs coach Jeff Jones, whose team lost to the Beavers 61-56 on Friday. “As it turned out, even though we got off to a slow start offensively, we were ready to guard from the get go. That’s what spurred us on.”
Kennesaw State led early, scoring six of the first eight points. But Old Dominion, which won this tournament in 2010, rallied to take the lead at 7-6 on Dajour Dickens’ jumper. The Monarchs went on to outscore the Owls 24-8 over the rest of the half, and led 31-14 at the break.
Old Dominion’s biggest lead came with 7:48 remaining in the second half, with Joe Reece’s tipin putting the Monarchs ahead 56-33.
Tyler Hooker scored 18 points and Bobby Parker added 13 for Kennesaw State (1-4), which lost its fourth straight.
“We obviously just got off to a poor start,” Owls coach Al Skinner said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t as prepared mentally as we should’ve been. We got good shots, we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. The second half we did a better job, but the first half was the difference in the ballgame.”
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