CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team scored an 84-81 overtime victory over the Toledo Rockets on Wednesday in the McLeod Center.
UNI (2-0 overall) used a career-high 27 points from sophomore guard Deon Mitchell and a McLeod Center record 32 made free throws to drop Toledo to 0-3 on the season.
Mitchell hit 8-of-11 shot from the field and 11-of-14 from the line to go along with five assists. UNI sophomore forward Seth Tuttle contributed with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and went 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.
The Rockets rode the hot shooting of Iowa State transfer Dominique Buckley, Rian Pearson and Julius Brown. Brown tallied 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the floor, while Pearson added 18 points and Buckley knocked in 19 poitns on 7-of-11 shooting.
UNI led 41-38 at the half mostly due to its work at the foul line. UNI made 13-of-16 free throws in the first half despite allowing Toledo to make 16 field goals compared to 12 for the Panthers.
The Panthers opened up a seven-point bulge at 47-40 with 15:50 to go in the game, but the Rockets would not allow a larger deficit the rest of the way.
Toledo took its first lead of the second half at 64-63 on a bucket from Buckley. But senior guard Marc Sonnen knocked down his first three-pointer of the second half with 1:54 left to give UNI a 66-65 lead. Prior to that shot, Sonnen was 0-for-5 from the field in the second stanza.
Mitchell tied the game at 70-70 with 32.8 seconds left on a jumper. Toledo had a chance to win the game in regulation but after a scramble for a loose ball was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.
Tuttle began the extra session with an old-fashioned three-point play and it cost Toledo its center Nathan Boothe as he picked up his fifth foul.
Tuttle then gave UNI a four-point margin to work with as he scored in the lane with 2:34 left in overtime. But Brown answered for the Rockets with a three-point play of his own to knock it back to a one-point game at 79-78. Tuttle drained two free throws with 1:09 to go and Toledo's Reese Holliday missed a three-pointer to tie the game.
Mitchell was fouled with 20.4 seconds left after senior Jake Koch kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound tapped out front. Mitchell made one of two free throws to put the lead back to four at 82-78.
However, Toledo's Brown buried a 3-pointer with 11.8 seconds left to set the stage for a frantic finish.
UNI was unable to get ball in-bounds and was whistled for a five-second call giving the ball back to Toledo. But Tuttle intercepted the Rocket's in-bounds pass and was fouled with 10.5 seconds left. Tuttle made both free throws to improve the Panthers' lead to 84-81.
Brown then had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer, but his running 3-pointer missed wide left and the Panthers claimed the triumph.
UNI will play host to the University of North Dakota on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the McLeod Center.
NOTES: UNI improved to 15-0 in the McLeod Center in November ... UNI also improved to 34-7 vs. non-conference foes in the McLeod Center ... UNI's 32 free throws broke the McLeod Center record set by UNI on Feb. 27, 2008, vs. Indiana State (31) ... it was UNI's first overtime game since the 2009 MVC Tournament final vs. Illinois State (60-57) ... UNI is now 2-2 in overtime games in the McLeod Center (UNI's previous OT win game vs. Wichita State in the 2007-08 season by the score of 77-75).