CEDAR FALLS — Terrific ball movement and a career-high 36 points from Trae Berhow sent Northern Iowa past Tennessee-Martin, 87-67 Tuesday night at McLeod Center.
The Skyhawks (2-3) — who trailed 44-37 at halftime — pulled within six just over seven minutes into the second half at 59-53. Then, over the next six minutes, Berhow hit three of his school record-tying eight 3s as the Panthers’ lead grew to 77-61.
“It’s like H-O-R-S-E shooting to us,” Berhow said of his career night. “AJ opened everything up. When AJ is driving and dishing it’s hard to guard (us).”
Three Panthers (5-0) joined Berhow in double figures, including AJ Green, who scored 14 points and added a career-high nine assists.
“(AJ) was an important part of what we saw in the second half and an important part of our passing (and) our decision-making,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “When you’ve got the ball in your hands the most, as AJ, Spencer (Haldeman) (and) Isaiah (Brown) (do), you have more responsibility for our decision making. For (Green) to settle in in that second half and get two guys on him and make a simple play, or sometimes it was a little harder pass, but he got to that part of it by forcing guys to help. He was terrific.”
UT-Martin — which entered Tuesday night’s game averaging 85.2 points — pushed the pace beyond the Panthers’ typical slow trot, but had no answers defensively as Green and his teammates piled up 20 assists on 32 made field goals.
“Man, I’ll tell you what I really, really like is the way we passed the ball that second half,” Jacobson said. “That was the best that we have passed the ball in five games now.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“... That’s the great thing about this offense, is no matter how you’re being defended, when you gain a good enough understanding of what you’re looking for — why we’re doing it, what we’re looking for, what’s going to be open when they defend it a certain way — tonight we saw what the offense is capable of.”
The Panthers’ win comes on the heels of using a much different blueprint in their overtime win against Northern Colorado this past Saturday. Jacobson attributed much of their success to Austin Phyfe — who recorded a double-double in Tuesday night’s win with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“Phyfe’s presence has a lot to do with that,” Jacobson said.
UNI hosts Cornell College (3-2) Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Rams fell to Simpson 84-74 Tuesday.