CANCUN, Mexico (AP) – AJ Green scored 26 points, including Northern Iowa’s last 10 points, leading the Panthers to a 78-72 win over South Carolina in the third-place game at the Cancun Challenge on Wednesday night.
Trae Berhow had five 3-pointers and 15 points for the Panthers (7-1), who bounced back after a heart-breaking five-point loss to West Virginia a night earlier.
A.J. Lawson had 20 points to lead the Gamecocks (4-3).
Berhow had four 3-pointers on five attempts in the first half as the Panthers took a 44-37 lead. An 8-0 run wiped out the Gamecocks’ early four-point advantage and UNI had a 44-33 lead after Austin Phyfe’s 3-point play at the 2:33 mark. Alanzo Frink scored the last four points of the half to pull South Carolina within seven.
Justin Minaya’s 3-pointer less than 3 minutes into the second half pulled South Carolina into a tie and the game remained tight the rest of the way.
Lawson’s 3-point play at the 7:38 mark put the Gamecocks on top 54-52 but Berhow answered with a 3-pointer and Phyfe made a jump hook in the lane and the Panthers were up three. After a South Carolina basket, Green made a 3-pointer and Northern Iowa led 70-66 going into the final media timeout.
Green’s two free throws at 2½ minutes pushed the lead to six but Lawson’s tough layup with a minute left had closed it to 72-70.
Green made a pullup jumper from the left wing at 31.5 seconds. Maik Kotsar answered from the right corner for South Carolina with 16.8 to go. Green added free throws at 12.7 and 2.5 seconds.
Northern Iowa was 14 of 17 from the foul line in the second half, outscoring the Gamecocks by a dozen points.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have yet to play at Power 5 team and lost 70-47 to Wichita State in their Cancun opener. They have some work to do in the three games before they play at Clemson and defending national champion Virginia in December.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers lost to West Virginia in their opener, 60-55, squandering a 15-point lead in the last 10 minutes. They made just 3 of 20 3-pointers in the loss but bounced back to make 8 of 20 against the Gamecocks. Green was 10 of 10 from the foul line.
South Carolina returns home and hosts George Washington on Sunday.
Northern Iowa heads home to face Luther College on Monday.
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