2 For Little Guys

Northwestern State beats buzzer, No. 3

Northwestern State 64 Iowa 63

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 2006|By REID HANLEY | REID HANLEY,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Northwestern State's Jermaine Wallace hit a three-pointer with one second left to stun third-seeded Iowa, 64-63, yesterday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The 14th-seeded Demons (26-7) provided the kind of upset that makes the NCAA tournament so enjoyable.

Stuck in the corner with time running out, all Wallace could do was heave and hope.

"I actually saw it go in through the back of the glass," Wallace said. "I can't believe this."

Down by 17 with 8 1/2 minutes left, the Demons from Natchitoches, La., stormed back to knock off the Big Ten tournament champions with swarming defense and clutch shooting.

"I'd like to say I had it all drawn up, but we were just trying to get the guys in the game who could create havoc on defense and score on offense," said Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy, who shuffled 11 players.

The loss also started the speculation about the future of Iowa coach Steve Alford sooner than expected.

Alford, in his seventh year at Iowa (25-9), is a former Indiana All-American and is expected to be a leading candidate to succeed Mike Davis, who announced his resignation last month. After the game, Alford didn't want to address the issue.

"We're two minutes after the game. My whole focus during this period hasn't changed," Alford said. "We've gone 7-3 during this stretch [and] these kids have been extremely focused. I'm so appreciative of what they have given me and our coaching staff. That's where my concern is. I'm not concerned about anything else."

Northwestern State, winner of the Southland Conference, trailed 54-37 with 8:29 left in the game. Then Clifton Lee, who led the Demons with 18 points, found his shooting touch. The 6-foot-7 senior from Boyce, La., hit four threes, along with a dunk, to bring Northwestern State within 60-57 with 2:44 left.

"In the first half, we played tight and thought too much," Lee said. "In the second half, we took it as it comes and the shots started falling."

Iowa natives Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner have been four-year starters whose names are all over the Hawkeyes' record book. Horner scored 11 points yesterday and Brunner 16, all in the second half.

Brunner was on the free-throw line with 14.6 seconds left and Iowa up 62-61. He made his first shot and McConathy called timeout. Brunner missed his second to set up Wallace, who wasn't supposed to be the hero.

He got his chance because he rebounded Kerwin Forges' miss with seven seconds left. Wallace outfought Iowa's Adam Haluska for the ball and took a three falling out of bounds.

"I saw four seconds [left] and I knew I had time," Wallace said.

"The guy made a great play," said Haluska, who contested the shot and landed on Wallace after he fell out of bounds. "We should've come up with the loose ball, but we knew this was a team that wasn't going to go away."

The Demons won six games during the regular season after trailing by double digits.

"We had good leads in both halves and we couldn't complete either half," Alford said. "It came down to our inability to keep them off the glass."

Northwestern State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, created 19 turnovers and gave up just 10 assists.

Iowa jumped out to an 18-4 lead with 13:12 left in the first half on a combination of three-pointers from Haluska and Horner and good passing. But the Demons rallied for a 21-20 halftime lead.

Reid Hanley writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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