N. Iowa 74, No. 24 Illinois 70
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) _ Nadine Brandt hit three 3-pointers in the final 2:09, and Katie Sorrell sank two critical free throws to pace Northern Iowa to a 74-70 victory Saturday over No. 24 Illinois.
Northern Iowa (5-1) blew an eight-point lead, then rallied from a four-point deficit to beat a ranked team for the first time. Illinois (2-3) couldn’t hold on despite Iveta Marcauskaite’s strong play down the stretch and lost for the third straight time.
Kary Dawson led Northern Iowa with 21 points, Abbie Schutte scored 16 and Brandt had 15 on five 3-point baskets, the last one with 28.6 seconds left to break the final tie.
The Northern Iowa victory spoiled the hometown return for Illinois freshman Anne O’Neil, who starred at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School and is Iowa’s career scoring leader in girls basketball.
O’Neil and Marcauskaite led Illinois with 18 points each. Marcauskaite had 16 in the final 9:31.
Illinois was leading 66-62 after Marcauskaite converted a three-point play when Brandt started her late surge.
First she hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to draw the Panthers to 66-65. Then she connected from the right side to put Northern Iowa ahead 68-66.
Marcauskaite tied with it on a putback with 1:08 remaining, then made a turnaround to tied it at 70 after Sorrell sank two free throws _ her first shots at the line all season.
Brandt then found herself open on the left side when Illinois’ Allison Curtin dropped off to stop the ball in the lane, got the pass and made her game-winning 3 from two steps beyond the arc.
Amy Swisher sank a free throw for the final Northern Iowa point after Illinois’ Shavonna Hunter threw up an airball from well beyond the 3-point line with 9 seconds left.
Northern Iowa led by as many as eight points in the first half and was up 52-44 after Swisher scored with 10:41 remaining. But the Panthers made only one basket in the next 7 1/2 minutes, and Illinois rallied by getting the ball inside to the 6-foot-4 Marcauskaite.