CEDAR FALLS — On a Saturday afternoon when intriguing college basketball matchups peppered the state of Iowa, a solid purple contingency with dabs of blue took shape in Cedar Falls. Drake and Northern Iowa continue to ride this wave of rivalry rejuvenation.
With one pivotal push and a solid overtime effort, the Bulldogs snatched away a crucial league road win.
Despite not leading during any point of the second half, Drake tied the game in the final seconds of regulation and owned overtime en route to an 82-74 win over UNI at McLeod Center. Couple that result with Missouri State's win over Loyola earlier in the day, and the Bulldogs (14-6, 5-2 Missouri Valley Conference) now sit just a half-game behind the Ramblers.
"This is what this league has been all year. It was a tough, tough, hard-fought game," Drake coach Darian DeVries said. "We're down 10 with three minutes to go. Northern Iowa had really controlled the game to that point. We were very fortunate there those last three minutes to make some stops and get a few buckets to go. Then we were able to knock free throws down at critical times.
"Just proud of the guys."
Tense moments usually emerge somewhere in matchups like these, even if it's not until the very end. The Panthers (9-9, 5-3) led by as many as 11 in the second half and seemingly had the Bulldogs contained — up 10 with 3:37 left and six with 2:31 left — before Drake finally delivered its momentum-altering run. The Bulldogs ended regulation on a 9-1 surge while scoring the final six, then took control of overtime with a 12-4 advantage.
Overall, the Bulldogs ended the game on a 23-5 surge.
Getting to the extra period first required some desperation magic. After forcing a shot-clock violation with roughly 30 seconds to go, Drake had one final possession to erase a 70-68 deficit. Doing so meant turning to Roman Penn, whose speed and shot-making can make for a tough cover. His game-tying layup with seven seconds remaining left UNI little chance for a buzzer beater, as AJ Green's desperation heave at the horn signaled the start of an overtime time period many in purple figured never should've come.
"Penn has been a good player in this league for a long time, so there was a pretty good chance he was going to have it in his hands," UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. "At that point in a two-point game, you don't want to give him too much space because he's capable of making that three.
"That puts you in a tough spot because he's so good when he can drive it, in particular with that right hand. He got to his right hand and he got downhill. The action prior to that, I thought we made the right switches and got all of it stopped. Then it just came down to if we can stay in front of him one time. He was able to just get past us."
The Panthers tried to reset from there, pulling even on two Green free throws with 3:49 left in overtime. But UNI's next seven field goals clanked without falling. That opened the door for Drake, which barged through with an impressive finish at the free-throw line. Ten of the Bulldogs' 12 overtime points arrived at the charity stripe.
Penn led the Bulldogs with 18 points and got double-digit assistance from the rest of the starting lineup. DJ Wilkins and Garrett Sturtz added 16 apiece, while Tucker DeVries and Tremell Murphy poured in 11 each. Sturtz and DeVries finished off double-doubles with 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively.
UNI got 27 from Green, who finished 6-for-17 shooting but racked up plenty of easy ones at the line (10-for-11). Over the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, he was the only Panther to score.
"It was our game," Green said. "We let it slip away. We got out-worked on a few possessions. They were tougher than us a few times. We played hard. But when that's how you lose, it always hurts. We'll just have to look in the mirror and get better."
Both teams entered within shouting distance of the Missouri Valley Conference's top spot. Both teams needed a rebound after dropping their midweek contest Wednesday evening. Both teams hoped to land the first blow in their first meeting of the season.
Given how late Saturday's narrative flipped, there are plenty of elements here that could make this a season-swinging game for either side.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Drake basketball wins overtime battle with rival Northern Iowa