CEDAR FALLS — UNI’s struggles on offense were once again rearing their ugly head in the first half of Saturday night’s game against North Dakota (5-3).
The Panthers and Hawks were knotted at 5-5 at the first media timeout with a combined six turnovers, and it looked as if another offensive struggle was on tap.
Then Jeremy Morgan happened.
Trailing 33-29 at the half, the do-it-all senior opened the scoring for his team and himself in the second half.
Morgan went on to score a game-high, career-high and McLeod Center record 38 points in a 78-70 win that put the Panthers back over .500 (5-4),
Morgan’s second half dominance was highlighted by scoring 38 of his team’s 49 points. Most impressive was the approach that led to Morgan’s outburst — a litany of left-wing isolations that North Dakota could not answer.
“(Coach Ben Jacobson) trusts me,” Morgan said. “He doesn’t do that a lot. When he does have an isolation situation for me on the wing it tells me that he believes in me. That meant a lot, and I tried to make (the) plays.”
Make the plays he did.
Morgan did his damage to the Hawks in a variety of ways — pull-up jumpers, dribble-drives and back-to-the-basket scores. The senior put his team’s struggling offense on his back — an offense that Jacobson said after the win still is very much a work in progress.
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“I’m not sure if Jeremy doesn’t get going, I don’t know if we get enough points,” Jacobson said. “It’s one of the things I talked with the guys about after (the game). We have to spend some time in practice on our offense. I have to, as our head coach, dedicate time in practice to our offense. You could see tonight (North Dakota) had much more rhythm to their offense than we did. Everybody saw it.”
The Panthers' second half outburst featured a lineup of Hunter Rhodes, Spencer Haldeman, Wyatt Lohaus, Klint Carlson and Morgan. Much has been made of Jacobson’s search for combinations to steady out the rotation and the aforementioned combination played the last 16:31 of the game.
Juwan McCloud, Haldeman, Isaiah Brown, Morgan and Ted Friedman started for the second consecutive game.
Lohaus returned from an ankle injury and scored four points in 24 minutes.
Carlson started the second half in place of Brown. Jacobson said afterward he liked the matchup for Carlson to start the second half over Brown.
UNI returns to action next Saturday in Des Moines when it takes on in-state rival Iowa at the Hy-Vee Classic. Tip is set for 3:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.