UNI Panthers

UNI's offense bottoms out in Hy-Vee Classic loss to Iowa

Panthers struggle to score in 77-54 defeat

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said his team, and in particular his team’s offense, was “out of sorts” after a 75-67 win over Division-III Dubuque last Saturday at McLeod Center.

After a 77-54 loss to No. 21 Iowa in the Hy-Vee Classic finale Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena, UNI’s 13th-year head coach said that despite the result, his team’s offense was more organized.

“We got organized pretty good this week and had two very good practices and had a bunch of stuff in and some more actions and that’s where I felt like the shots we got in the first 10 to 12 minutes were ones that we liked,” Jacobson said.

UNI’s offensive woes were nearly record-setting against the Hawkeyes. During the first half, UNI went scoreless for longer than eight minutes, missing 13 consecutive shots. Its 18 points at the half were only five more than Iowa’s school record for lowest opponent total at halftime.

While the Panthers (4-6) have struggled recently in all facets of their offense, they were particularly bad from behind the 3-point line against the Hawkeyes (8-2), going 6-for-29. UNI was unable to overcome the poor jump-shooting with any inside production, largely a result of Luke McDonnell’s two first-half fouls.

“The thing that happened in the game is we moved (Shandon Goldman) to the center position and our intention was to play Luke and Justin (Dahl) at that spot,” Jacobson said. “So, (Goldman) didn’t have reps at that center position so we had to get away from some things that we had spent some time working on and try to make some things up a little bit. So we’re going to have to continue to work from a lineup standpoint.”

With Austin Phyfe (vasovagal syncope) likely to miss the rest of the season, the Panthers have relied on McDonnell and Goldman for interior presence. McDonnell, a redshirt junior, had not been a rotation regular before this season while Goldman — who scored a season-high 10 points Saturday — is a junior college transfer in his first year at UNI.

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McDonnell has been steady, averaging 9.1 points per game, but Goldman has struggled to consistently produce, scoring only 2.3 points per game. Moving forward, Jacobson said UNI will need production from Goldman and Dahl and penetration from guards if shots continue to rim out.

After spending nearly the entire month of November on the road, it was thought the Panthers could rectify their offense with practice and the benefit from being back home. Now, having lost four of its last six Division-I games, UNI has three home games — Grand Canyon, North Dakota and Stony Brook — before Missouri Valley Conference play begins.

“The team we played today was very good,” Jacobson said. “I like our guys and I like our roster. We lack some experience and we lack some size up front so we’ve got some things that we’ve got to keep working through but I’ll tell you what, I like our guys. They’re willing to get in the gym and work.”

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