116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa men’s basketball put its mettle on display once again Saturday in a comeback win against Illinois-Chicago.
Trailing the Flames (9-12, 1-9) by 16 points with 11:24 remaining in the first half, the Panthers outscored UIC 71-49 over the game’s final 31:36.
“Just a little different (comeback), maybe, big picture in that when we were behind — we got behind 16 that early in the game — (and) you may feel like there wasn’t anything that was going right, but that wasn’t necessarily the case,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “The other thing from the game that kind of jumped out is we’re just making a couple little mistakes that we should be past.”
Headlining UNI’s comeback was a career-high 21 points from redshirt freshman Michael Duax, who added 11 rebounds for his third career double-double.
The Dubuque native’s development has been eye-catching, particularly since seeing his minutes per game jump after Nate Heise’s season-ending injury.
“Physically he’s able to do so many things for a guy that’s in his first year,” Jacobson said. “Nobody that jumps to mind (with previous teams) that is that efficient around the basket, offensive rebounding (and) defending either the best or second-best guy every night.
“He’s got a lot of natural tools and ability, but he plays as hard as he can play on every single play. That’s allowed him to get better pretty fast.”
With this week’s games being the final two of January, and the Panthers sitting alone in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, Jacobson pointed out where the calendar sits in relation to communication and scouting report errors that continue to happen.
“The three, four, five mistakes that we’re making right now have made some of the games a lot harder, and they're the kind of mistakes that cost you,” Jacobson said.
Up next for UNI (11-9, 7-3) is its regular-season rematch against Valparaiso (9-12, 3-7). The Crusaders sit near the bottom of the MVC standings, but have won three straight conference games, largely due to a lineup change that elevated all-MVC forward Ben Krikke’s production.
“(Valparaiso) moved (Krikke) around. Instead of getting the majority of his catches on the block — where you’re a little easier to find (and it’s) a little easier to go get that double-teamed — they moved him to the middle of the floor and that caused us a lot of problems in the game at their place,” Jacobson said. “They’ve continued to go with that and he’s been a real challenge. You watch them in their last three games and the entire team looks different.”