Cincinnati 76, Northern Iowa 70, 2 OT
CINCINNATI (AP)—Jihad Muhammad’s four-point play completed Cincinnati’s 18-point comeback in regulation, and Jason Maxiell had a breakaway dunk in the second overtime Wednesday night that clinched a 76-70 victory over Northern Iowa in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
Northern Iowa (1-1), returning the core of a team that won its first Missouri Valley Conference tournament title last season, pulled ahead by 18 points in the second half against a poor-shooting team but couldn’t hold on.
Cincinnati (2-0) tied it at 56 in regulation on Muhammad’s four-point play with 1:23 to go. The Bearcats shot only 28.6 percent from the field, but made up for it by dominating the boards down the stretch and forcing 22 turnovers.
Cincinnati’s Armein Kirkland missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first overtime, leaving it tied at 64. Eric Hicks’ putback and Maxiell’s dunk gave the Bearcats a seven-point lead in the second overtime.
Muhammad led Cincinnati with 23 points, but was only 6-of-22 from the field. Maxiell added 21 points and 15 rebounds. Erik Crawford had 16 for Northern Iowa and Brooks McKowen scored 13.
The exempt tournament features six teams playing a round-robin format on local campuses, then meeting in Las Vegas for the final games in late December. No. 5 Illinois, Longwood, Northwestern State and Valparaiso fill out the field.
The tournament uses experimental rules—the lane is 3 feet wider, the 3-point arc is moved back 9 inches to 20 feet, 6 inches. There’s also a “no-charge” zone under the basket similar to the one used in the NBA.
Both teams struggled to score at the outset—it was 9-all with just over 10 minutes left in the first half. Northern Iowa missed its first six shots, and Cincinnati opened in a 2-for-14 funk against a packed-in defense.
Northern Iowa emerged from its slump with a crowd-hushing run. McKowen made a three-point play and a driving layup in a 12-2 spurt that pushed it to 24-13.
The Panthers’ three-guard offense repeatedly made open shots on the perimeter as they led by as many as 14 in the first half.
Coach Bob Huggins kept his cold-shooting team in the locker room for the entire halftime break. Kirkland took their only two warmup shots when they returned to the floor—and missed them both. Cincinnati’s Jason Maxiell then missed a dunk off a rebound to open the second half.
McKowen hit bookend 3-pointers in a 10-point spurt that gave Northern Iowa its biggest lead, 44-26, with 14:46 left. Cincinnati was shooting only 22.9 percent at that point.
Freshman Roy Bright hit a pair of short jumpers, starting a 26-8 spurt that sent it to overtime. Muhammad hit a pair of 3’s in the run, then tied the game with his four-point play. He missed two shots to put Cincinnati ahead at the end of regulation.