By Gregg Bell / Staff writer
SEATTLE -- Marvin Singleton scored exactly zero points and eventually fouled out.
But his defense on Wyoming’s star is why Northern Iowa went out big early to advance in the first of four NCAA tournament games today at KeyArena in Seattle.
Singleton kept Larry Nance Sr. without a field goal for the first 25 minutes. That allowed Northern Iowa to build a 21-point lead early in the second half of its 71-54 victory in a second-round game inside the East Regional.
Paul Jesperson scored 15 points and made three of six 3-point shots for Northern Iowa (31-3), which won an NCAA tourney came for the first time since its shocking upset of top-seeded Kansas in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 tournament. The Missouri Valley regular-season and tournament champion advance to Sunday’s third round against the winner of this afternoon’s game between fourth-seeded Louisville and 13 seed UC-Irvine.
Singleton banged and pulled and basically tormented Nance throughout a bruising first half. Nance, averaging 16.1 points per game, didn’t get his first field goal until 15:00 remaining. Singleton was on the bench with three fouls then. Nance proceeded to make five shots in 4 minutes, two of them 3-pointers, to lead the Cowboys storming back from being down by 21 early in the second half to within 55-46.
But then UNI’s Tuttle, one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award as the nation’s best player, deftly passed from the key out to right wing to set up Nate Buss for a wide-open 3. Buss’ swish pushed the
Panthers back up 62-48 with 4:47 left.
Kurt Warner, the former NFL MVP quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, then Super Bowl QB for the Arizona Cardinals and UNI’s most famous sports product, roared at that. Warner stood the entire game in a purple UNI T-shirt behind his team’s bench; he talked to the players in the locker room before the game.
The Panthers have to be thrilled to win despite Tuttle, fifth all time at UNI in field-goal percentage at 57.9 percent, making just 4 for 12 shots. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Tuttle will have to be on more Sunday for UNI to get back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years.
Nance finished with 16 points, 15 in the second half, in his final college game for Wyoming (25-10), which beat San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament championship last week. He is the son of former Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers star Larry Nance Sr., who sat behind me wearing Wyoming gold with a matching cap cheering his son’s awakening earlier in the second half.