UNI hangs tough with No. 9 Xavier
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
CEDAR FALLS — J.P. Macura scored 15 points and No. 9 Xavier hung on to beat Northern Iowa 77-67 on Friday night for its seventh straight win.
Trevon Bluiett scored 12 points with seven rebounds for the Musketeers (12-1), who went on an 11-2 run down the stretch, highlighted by a 3 by Bluiett, to break open a tie game.
Macura’s breakaway dunk and 3 in the final 95 seconds left sealed it for Xavier, which shot 12 of 23 from 3-point range.
This matchup between one of the nation’s top offenses in Xavier and one of its best defenses in Northern Iowa looked like it might swing toward the Panthers after they jumped by 10 early in the first half.
The Musketeers rallied though — despite 13 first-half turnovers and a 10-0 Panthers run that tied it at 46-all — thanks largely to a 31-11 spurt spanning the halves.
Northern Iowa got within 60-57 before Tyrique Jones followed a block with two free throws, and Macura’s back-to-back baskets ensured that the Musketeers would survive.
Bennett Koch had 26 points for the Panthers (8-4).
Xavier: The Musketeers will exit non-conference play with just one loss, to third-ranked Arizona State, and Macura and Kaiser Gates played extended minutes after missing Tuesday’s win over Marshall. They will enter Big East play as a legitimate contender, though top-ranked Villanova remains the league favorite.
Northern Iowa: The underdog Panthers were hoping a win would bolster their NCAA Tournament resume, which already includes wins over SMU, North Carolina State and UNLV. Now, Northern Iowa will watch its lofty RPI dwindle in the weeks to come in Missouri Valley play.
Xavier plays at Marquette on Dec. 27.
Northern Iowa hosts Southern Illinois on Dec. 28.