CollegeInsider.com Tournament Quarterfinal Recap - Southern Methodist 57, Northern Iowa 50

> View all of our 2011 CIT Tournament Coverage online at CollegeSports-Fans.com!

One year after disposing of mighty Kansas and creating a national splash that made them the center of the college basketball universe for a week, the Northern Iowa Panthers quietly saw their season end on home hardwood against an opponent that is sowing seeds of optimism for the 2011-2012 season.

A little bit of an uprising was staged in the American Heartland in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. One wonders how much fuel the SMU Mustangs can gain from the achievement they just registered in hostile territory against the Missouri Valley Conference foe that captured the country’s heart 12 months ago.

The SMU crew, to put it plainly, scored the biggest win of its season on Monday night. Southern Methodist led by as many as 13 points in the second half, but Northern Iowa fought back to within five points in the final minutes before the Mustangs were able to dispatch the Panthers on their home court at the McLeod Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The game owned a particular parallel to SMU’s win over the Jacksonville Dolphins on the Mustangs’ home court last Saturday in Dallas. The similarity existed in the sense that coach Matt Doherty’s team from Texas nearly lost a substantial early lead, only to just barely manage a win – but a very big one – in the end. One key difference was that this time the game was in a hostile arena.

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The Mustangs were again led by senior center Papa Dia, this time with 17 points and 21 rebounds in a dominant performance for the big man. SMU extended its 20-14 season into the semifinals of the CIT Tournament against an opponent to be determined after the three other quarterfinal games are played on Tuesday night. Guard Collin Mangrum and forward Robert Nyakundi had 11 points each for the Mustangs.

SMU led 31-23 at the half and pulled to a 41-28 lead early in the second period. However, UNI – coached by Ben Jacobson - closed the gap to 41-37 with about eight minutes remaining, thanks to a five-minute scoring drought for the Mustangs. The Panthers were able to keep the game close from that point onward, reaching a five-point deficit twice, but the home team was unable to catch the Mustangs in the end. An SMU team that did nothing of consequence on the road throughout the Conference USA season suddenly pulled a rabbit out of the hat in tournament competition. Can this result power the Ponies to a full-bore resurgence next season? Many college basketball watchers will be interested to see if SMU can turn the trick and be more than just – literally – a one-trick Pony.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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