CEDAR FALLS — In the midst of a five-game losing streak, Northern Iowa’s seniors are being looked upon before the season potentially gets away from them.
While he may not be listed as a senior in the team’s program, Wyatt Lohaus, in his fourth season at UNI (8-7, 0-3), is a de facto senior that’s part of the leadership group working to recapture early-season success.
After playing in the first seven games, Lohaus sat out last season with an ankle injury and received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA that classifies him as a redshirt junior. His return to health and ultimately the court was highly anticipated leading up to this season, but a toe injury delayed his comeback. Coming off a season lost to injury, Lohaus had the benefit this go-around to know how to better listen to his body and returned after only missing the first seven games.
“It was basically a case of turf toe and I’ve had that before,” Lohaus said. “So I knew that it’s pretty tricky to (heal), but we knew, and I talked to our athletic trainer, Don Bishop. Being that it was preseason when it happened we figured it was best to get it fully recovered before we got into the middle of the season and didn’t have much time to rest it.”
Through his first seven games since returning, Lohaus has provided an offensive spark off the bench for the Panthers, averaging 8.6 points per game. However it’s been UNI’s offense that’s largely held it back during a five-game losing streak. Lohaus, and UNI’s seniors, are not letting the recent struggles impact their mindset, but the Iowa City West alum admits that they’re in need of improvement in the confidence department.
“Part of it (is) we’ve had good looks that in November and December we’ve made and we’ve proven we can make those shots, those plays, just lately it hasn’t really been happening,” Lohaus said. “Overall as a group our team confidence, on that end of the floor, can improve. I think that’ll come with guys making plays and that’ll kind of have a snowball effect. Just having the mindset that we’re going to be the aggressor.”
Lohaus is not a stranger to starting conference play slowly. He was an important role player on the 2014-15 team that made the NCAA Tournament after having lost six of its first eight Valley games. Now approaching an eerily similar beginning to this season, Lohaus says senior Klint Carlson has already brought that season up to him and other teammates.
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“That (2014-15 team) obviously gives us a lot of optimism about the rest of the season,” Lohaus said. “We know that things can change very quickly.”
“Us executing the little things, such as assignments on defense, continuing to put in the individual work outside of practice so that when we’re in games we’re making more shots. Really just dialing it in even more, our focus. Then, once you get a couple wins, really starting to believe that’s it’s possible to make a great run and whatever has happened in the past is over and we’re a better team.”
Lohaus and the Panthers will look to snap their losing streak Sunday at McLeod Center against Loyola (11-4, 2-1) at 3 p.m. (ESPNU). The Ramblers began the season 11-1, but have lost three of their last four.