Northern Iowa Upsets No. 5 Iowa State in Big Four Classic

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Featured Image Courtesy of Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Northern Iowa is growing accustomed to upsetting top-five teams this season.

The Panthers (7-3) pulled off a dramatic 81-79 win over the No. 5 Cyclones (9-1) on Saturday night, ending Iowa State's undefeated start to the year. Senior guard Wes Washpun was sensational, as he scored a career high 28 points to go along with 11 assists and seven rebounds.

A late attempt to tie the game along the baseline by Monte Morris was unsuccessful and the Panthers posted their second win over a top-five team this year. UNI also beat No. 1 North Carolina at home in November.

“We just really want to prove that we can play with anybody,” Washpun said. “I know coach (Jacobson) believes in the guys, and the guys in the locker room believe in it as well. No matter what game we are in, we are never out of it. It doesn’t matter the opponent.”

Paul Jespersen was a key factor in the Panthers' victory, scoring 21 points and hitting timely three-pointers down the stretch. Overall, the Panthers shot 13-of-29 (59.1 percent) from three-point land.

Georges Niang poured in 30 points for the Cyclones, but a turnover with 11 seconds left in the game proved costly. Abdel Nader had 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

“Obviously, we can’t have a team shot 58 percent from the field and expect to win," Niang said. "There is some things we have to correct but we’re still improving as a team and everyday trying to get better.”

Northern Iowa came out firing in this matchup as they led Iowa State 46-37 at halftime. The Panthers were 8-of-13 from behind the arc in the first half and the Cyclones couldn't slow down Washpun and Jespersen. The two starters combined for 29 points and didn't miss a shot from the field.

“We all have to get better, that’s just part of the process,” ISU head coach Steve Prohm said. “We’re 10 games in, we’re 9-1 and got beat by a good basketball team.”

At one point in the second half it looked like Iowa State might engineer another comeback victory, but Northern Iowa was able to hold on to stun the Cyclones.

“Sometimes as a team, you don’t necessarily have the ability to rise up and do what we did tonight,” UNI head coach Ben Jacobson said. “(But) the guys on this team do and that says a lot about them.”