Northern Iowa coasts past Men's Basketball, 58-45

    Dantiel Daniels led SIU with 11 points.

    Dantiel Daniels led SIU with 11 points.
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    Jan. 23, 2013

    By Tom Weber

    Final Stats |  Photo Gallery 

    CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Northern Iowa used suffocating defense and timely 3-point shooting to coast past Southern Illinois, 58-45, on Wednesday night.

    The Salukis (8-11, 1-7) were held below 50 points for the first time this season and the 45-point total was the lowest for SIU in the 51-game history of the series between the schools.

    "The thing they do defensively is they make you shoot jump shots," SIU head coach Barry Hinson said. "They're absolutely the best. They play man-zone and they back off, make you hit jump shots, and when you don't have a guy who can score inside, it makes you a jump-shooting team."

    Trailing by six points at halftime, Southern went more than four minutes to start the second half without scoring. That allowed the Panthers (11-9, 4-4) to run off 10 unanswered points. The final six came on 3-pointers by Marc Sonnen, who converted 5-of-8 shots from downtown and led all scorers with 15 points.

    "He's put in a ton of time for the past 18 months -- a minimum 500 shots a day in the off-season," said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson. "The confidence he's playing with is a result of working hard."

    Northern made 8-of-15 shots from 3-point as a team, and Hinson said Sonnen's hot shooting was no surprise.

    "He just sits over there in that corner and waits," Hinson said. "Seventy-two percent of his shots have been threes on the year. We knew it, we expected it. I'll give up a wide-open three before I give up a dunk or a layup."

    As it has all year, Southern played small-ball, always using a lineup with four or five guards. Jacobson said it was difficult, at times, for his team to run offense against such an unusual alignment.

    "You don't practice against five guards and you don't play against five guards except in this game," he said. "When they have four or five guards on the floor, it changes the way you can run your offense. We were able to get a few more touches (inside) in the second half and that jump-started us."

    The Panthers led by as many as 19 points in second half, and the closest the Salukis came was 13. SIU attempted a season-low 41 shots, but that was partially by design, Hinson said.

    "The pace was exactly what we wanted," he explained. "The last two teams to come in here got beat 31 and 13. We knew that we would have to literally grind it a little bit. Mr. (Henry) Iba would have been proud of me tonight."

    Dantiel Daniels was SIU's only double-figure scorer with 11 points. Hinson pointed out that the team's primary big man only had one rebound, however, and Southern lost the battle of the boards, 29-22.

    "Dantiel has to play a lot better for us, and I think he can," Hinson said. "When you're that size and you get one rebound, I think that speaks volumes with what's going on with energy and effort. Offensively, it's not an issue, but he's got to come out of a game with more than one rebound."

    Midway through the second half, the officials stopped play, reviewed the in-house video and ejected SIU forward Jeff Early for committing a Flagrant 2 foul. Hinson said he didn't see the play, but acknowledged that his senior leader may have to serve a one-game suspension after the league reviews the incident that occurred between Early and Jake Koch.

    "I think there were two culprits, but the second guy gets caught," Hinson said.

    After losing its first two conference games, Northern Iowa is starting to get hot, having won four of its last six. The Panthers are certainly in contention for one of the coveted top six seeds at the conference tournament.

    "We bounced back and forth for so long and our guys deserve credit for not allowing that early part of the season to distract from our preparation," Jacobson said.

    The last time SIU won at Northern Iowa was 10 years ago, nearly to the day, when Bruce Weber guided the Salukis to an overtime victory.

    The Salukis have lost 12-straight MVC road games dating back to last season. It is the second-longest streak in school history behind a 15-game road losing streak in conference games from 1982-84 under head coach Allen Van Winkle.