Two teams who people didn’t expect to be in the Consolation Bracket of the Diamond Head Classic were the BYU Cougars and the Northern Iowa Panthers. However, after opening game losses, both teams found themselves aiming for a spot in the 5th-place game on Christmas Day.
In winning their second games of the event, they set themselves up for a fantastic showdown on Christmas Day. With talented guards on both sides of the ball, this was a true Christmas gift to any college basketball fan out there.
Both teams were looking for a quality non-conference win to bolster their tournament resumes, should they find themselves on the bubble come Selection Sunday. The game was close early on, but a 15-0 run for the Cougars in the opening half gave BYU all the momentum they needed.
The Cougars claimed 5th place in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic with an 84-76 victory over the Northern Iowa Panthers.
Both teams struggled on offense to open the game, with neither team finding the scoreboard in the first two minutes of the contest. Nate Austin broke the drought for the Cougars, scoring the first two points of the game and igniting the offense for both teams.
The teams would go basket-for-basket over the next four-plus minutes, capped off by a Klint Carlson jumper that would bring the Panthers back to a 12-12 tie with 13:18 left in the half.
That was when the wheels would fall off for Northern Iowa. Kyle Davis would respond to Carlson’s jumper with one of his own, and that started a 15-0 run for BYU that spanned over five minutes. Five different Cougars scored in the run, including Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer.
Ted Friedman would put an end to the run with a layup for the Panthers, but the damage had been done. Northern Iowa would continually chip away at the lead, trying to make it manageable as the half-time break approached. a three-pointer from Matt Bohannon cut the deficit to 8 with 40 seconds left on the clock, but Fischer would respond with a layup of his own to restore the double-digit lead at the break.
Facing a 38-28 deficit entering the second half, the Panthers came out on fire to start the half. Bohannon connected on a pair of three-pointers to anchor a mini 11-2 run that brought the Panthers back to within 3, at 42-39, with 16:53 left to play in the half.
The run prompted a timeout from BYU, and whatever was discussed worked, as Fischer hit a three-pointer on a second-chance opportunity right out of the break to push the lead back to 4.
Credit the Panthers for hanging around and continuing to chip away at the lead. Paul Jesperson hit a three-pointer of his own at the 15:04 mark, cutting the deficit to a single point.
No matter how many times the Panthers would knock on the door and threaten to take the lead, the Cougars slammed the proverbial door in their face and didn’t allow them to overtake them on the scoreboard. Zac Seljaas scored five straight points for the Cougars following the Jepserson three pointer, and BYU was back in control.
That was the theme for the rest of the game: the Panthers would threaten the lead, getting to within two or three points, and the Cougars would respond and push the lead back to a more comfortable margin. Davis pushed the lead to 13 points with 1:46 to play, and it looked as though the game was over.
Again, the Panthers never quit, and continued to fight right down to the final buzzer. Bohannon hit three-pointers on three consecutive possessions for the Panthers, forcing the Cougars to make their free throws in the process after each three-pointer. Northern Iowa fought tooth-and-nail in the second half, but were unable to overcome the 15-0 run in the first half by the Cougars that deflated their momentum.
Thanks to their big first half, the BYU Cougars took home the 5th-place title at the Diamond Head Classic with the 84-76 victory over Northern Iowa.
When they needed it the most, the BYU Cougars got big performances from their star players. Chase Fischer went 7-of-14 from the floor in the game, recording a game-high 26 points in the process. Kyle Davis recorded 10 points and 9 rebounds, narrowly missing out on his 7th double-double of the season.
Kyle Collinsworth flirted with yet another triple-double, recording 12 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, and 6 assists on the afternoon. All in all, five Cougars scored in double-figures in the win.
Not to be outdone, the guards for the Northern Iowa Panthers put together strong performances in a losing effort. Matt Bohannon scored a team-high 21 points, while Jeremy Morgan added 19 points and 4 rebounds in defeat.
Wes Washpun flirted with a triple-double of his own for the Panthers, recording 14 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in the loss.
After the loss to Harvard in their opener, the BYU Cougars (9-4) scored back-to-back wins over quality opponents to close out the Diamond Head Classic on a high note. The Cougars are one of two teams (San Diego) who haven’t played a conference game in the WCC yet this season, but they will open up conference play on New Year’s Even against the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
The loss for the Northern Iowa Panthers (8-5) continued their trend of alternating wins and losses over their last 8 games. Their inability to build off a win and keep momentum going could hinder their NCAA Tournament chances come March, and could also hurt them in conference play. They open up conference against the Bradley Braves on December 30th.