UNI Panthers

Rusty UNI men's basketball team can't close out Missouri State

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson is seen on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game
Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson is seen on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s tournament Friday, March 6, 2020, in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

CEDAR FALLS — Playing its first game in 18 days Northern Iowa was overwhelmed in its Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball opener Sunday, losing 79-59 to Missouri State.

Despite trailing the entire first half and entering the break behind 42-32, UNI (1-5, 0-1) put together a 17-3 scoring run midway through the second half that included six of James Betz’s eight points and five of Austin Phyfe’s seven to even the score at 51-51 with 10:32 to play.

“That group (of Evan Gauger, Goanar Mar, Noah Carter, Trae Berhow, Betz and Phyfe) activity level was good,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “That was a lineup that we hadn’t practiced with, but they were able to get some stops. It’s a lineup that had a little bit of everything in there. Our length is pretty good with that lineup. That group put together a good stretch.”

The Panthers showed their rust early on, converting just three of their first 15 attempts from the field.

While UNI struggled to find its shot, Bears forward Gaige Prim led a push to their 10-point halftime lead, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half and doing his damage against Phyfe, Betz and Cole Henry.

Despite their extended layoff between games, Jacobson wasn’t ready to use rust as an excuse for Sunday’s result.

“I’m not going to completely dismiss (rust), but the reason we got off to a slow start was because of who we were playing,” Jacobson said. “I thought Missouri State played well. They came out and got the ball inside to Prim. Missouri State beat us.”

Berhow led UNI in scoring with 18 and was the only Panther to finish in double figures.

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Missouri State’s Isiaih Mosley scored a game-high 26, and 13 of the sophomore guard’s points came during the Bears' 28-8 run over the game’s final 10-plus minutes.

“I wouldn’t say give and take (between Prim and Mosley), it’s more or less just toughness. I think we have to take it more personally when someone scores on us,” Berhow said.

UNI will get another shot at Missouri State (4-0, 1-0) Monday night due to the MVC’s revamped schedule to mitigate against COVID-19 exposure. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

“When I was meeting with the guys right after the game I asked them what they thought and how they felt and they talked about Prim, and they talked about Mosley,” Jacobson said. “Those guys are too good to let them get rolling like that. So we’re going to have to do a better job on those two guys.”

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