116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Time is running out for Northern Iowa men’s basketball to improve its defense.
Despite a 2-0 record last week, UNI Coach Ben Jacobson didn’t mince words when it came to his team’s lingering shortcomings on Monday.
“Since we got back from Hawaii this is as healthy as we’ve been. We (made) good strides when we got back from Hawaii,” Jacobson said. “I talked with the guys some last week about this — there’s always a point where you have to decide (to do it).
“It’s not now about watching it again on film. It’s not now about getting one more rep at practice. It’s February and you have to decide that you’re going to do it right. That’s the point we’re at.”
While Jacobson waits on his team’s defense to improve, he pointed out effort at practice has been great and he and his staff are routinely seeing positive signs.
He also hinted the Panthers’ rotation could change with an aim toward defense.
Freshman forward Tytan Anderson — who scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and registered one block and steal in UNI’s win over Illinois State on Saturday — has gradually positioned himself for more minutes.
“We’re talking about leveling up defensively, we’re talking about getting to the offensive glass (and) we’re talking about Bradley coming in here — Tytan does it every day at practice,” Jacobson said. “The things that got to get done, he’s doing them.”
Bradley — which beat UNI, 71-69, in its Missouri Valley Conference opener on Dec. 1 — enters tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak.
The Braves (12-10, 6-4) are led by Terry Roberts’ 15.7 points per game, but 6-foot-9 forward Rienk Mast is making a case for MVC most improved player. He’s averaged 15.8 points in conference play.
“Last year he was more of a catch-and-shoot (guy),” Jacobson said. “Now, this year, he’s doing it from the 3-point line, but more of it now is around the basket.
“He’s just become much, much better. He just looks like a much more confident guy in year two.”
UNI (11-9, 7-3) hosts Bradley at McLeod Center tonight at 7 (KCRG 9.2/ESPN+).