Tad Boyle wondered this week if it was a wise choice to schedule a very good Northern Iowa squad on the heels of Colorado’s visit to No. 2 Kansas.
Buffaloes fans probably are wondering the same thing.
In a back-and-forth affair it was visiting Northern Iowa that made the plays with the game on the line, scoring the game’s final six points to hand the 24th-ranked Buffs a stunning 79-76 defeat Tuesday night at the CU Events Center.
Earlier this week Boyle labeled it the “biggest trap game of the year” for his club, and the Panthers showed why, owning both sides of halftime to build a 12-point lead before holding strong down the stretch after the Buffs rallied.
“Extremely disappointing loss,” Boyle said. “I thought we fought hard in the second half to come back and take the lead. But our attention to detail is just not good enough right now. It was really evident tonight in how we guarded. Stretches of the game where we just kind of fell asleep and expected good things to happen. You have to make good things happen for yourselves, and that’s what Northern Iowa did.
“Northern Iowa out-executed us tonight. They deserved to win. We did not.”
CU took its first lead since the first half on Lucas Siewert’s fifth 3-pointer of the night midway through the second half, and the game featured nine lead changes the rest of the way.
The Buffs trailed 73-68 with 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining before scoring eight consecutive points on a 3-pointer from McKinley Wright IV, a 3-point play from Evan Battey, and another inside bucket from Wright that gave CU a 76-73 lead with 1:39 to play.
But Northern Iowa sophomore guard AJ Green knocked down a 3-pointer to even the game, and an ill-advised pass from Wright resulted in his fifth turnover of the game and a breakaway layup for the Panthers’ Spencer Haldeman that gave the visitors a 78-76 lead.
D’Shawn Schwartz was blocked by UNI’s Austin Phyfe on CU’s next offensive possession, and Green added a free throw to push Northern Iowa’s lead to 79-76. The Buffs launched two 3-point attempts in the waning seconds by Shane Gatling and Siewert, but the errant shots secured the Buffs’ first home loss of the season.
“They just executed better than us the entire night,” Wright said. “They’re a high-executing team, and they did that.
“I should have just kept it and called a timeout (on the last turnover). I made a mistake, made the wrong read.”
The defeat ruined a career-best effort from Siewert, who came off the bench to knock down his first five shots, including three 3-pointers, to help CU build a seven-point lead with a little under 6 minutes remaining in the first half. Siewert finished with career-highs in made 3-pointers (five) and points (21).
Northern Iowa senior forward Justin Dahl had never scored more than nine points in his career but went 7-for-7 with 14 points. Green finished with 20 points as did UNI’s Trae Berhow, who went 5-for-6 on 3-pointers overall and 4-for-4 in the second half. The Panthers finished 14-for-26 on 3-pointers.
For the first time this season, CU was bested in second-chance points, with Northern Iowa using 15 offensive rebounds to post a 15-12 advantage.
“I’m really, really disappointed in our attention to detail,” Boyle said. “The number one thing to not let Northern Iowa come in and beat us is we have to take away their threes. That was the number one thing. The last thing on our defensive game plan was we had to limit them to one shot, because they will offensive rebound.
“Fifteen offensive rebounds and 14 made threes, and those are your two keys to your defensive game plan, that’s the attention to detail I’m talking about.”
What went right: The Buffs shot .556 in the second half and finished with a .472 mark overall.
What went wrong: Northern Iowa outrebounded the Buffs 31-29 and owned a 15-12 edge in second-chance points. CU also committed 15 turnovers.
Star of the game: Lucas Siewert. The senior forward made his first five shots and finished with career-highs in made 3-pointers (five) and points (21).
What’s next: The Buffs won’t have much time to bounce back as they travel to Fort Collins for a rivalry battle Friday at Colorado State (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
NORTHERN IOWA 79, No. 24 COLORADO 76
NORTHERN IOWA (9-1)
Phyfe 0-5 2-2 2, Brown 3-8 2-2 10, Green 6-16 3-5 20, Haldeman 3-6 0-0 8, Berhow 6-8 3-3 20, Betz 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Dahl 7-7 0-1 14, Kimmons 1-3 0-0 2, Pickford 1-5 1-1 3. Totals 27-58 11-14 79.
Battey 3-7 3-4 9, Wright 5-10 4-4 16, Parquet 1-4 1-2 4, Schwartz 1-5 0-0 3, Bey 4-4 6-6 14, Siewert 7-11 2-2 21, Walton 0-1 0-0 0, Gatling 2-5 0-0 5, Kountz 2-4 0-0 4, Daniels 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 16-18 76.
Halftime — N. Iowa 33-32. 3-point goals — N. Iowa 14-26 (Berhow 5-6, Green 5-10, Brown 2-4, Haldeman 2-5, Pickford 0-1), Colorado 10-20 (Siewert 5-7, Wright 2-3, Schwartz 1-2, Parquet 1-2, Gatling 1-3, Battey 0-1, Daniels 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — N. Iowa 31 (Phyfe 7), Colorado 29 (Bey 6). Assists — N. Iowa 19 (Brown 5), Colorado 13 (Wright 6). Total fouls — N. Iowa 19, Colorado 14. Technicals — Berhow. A — 6,570.