CEDAR FALLS — A 15-0 second-half scoring run by Northern Iowa prevented a Dubuque upset Saturday afternoon at McLeod Center, as the Panthers pulled away late for a 75-67 win.
UNI began its 15-0 run with just under 13 minutes to play, trailing by 10, and having not led the Spartans by more than six.
“Fortunately the trapping in the full court worked for us,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “We were able to get them sped up, we were able to get them trapped. It completely changed the tempo of the game, it completely changed the rhythm that (Dubuque) was in.”
The Panthers led 55-50 with eight minutes to play. Dubuque returned to the lead twice after 3-pointers from Jason Barker and Cade Daugherty, but a jumper and a 3 from A.J. Green — who scored a game-high 20 points — gave UNI the lead back for good with 4:35 to play.
“We weren’t playing as well defensively, I didn’t think,” UNI forward Luke McDonnell said. “We talked about it at halftime — pressuring them more, make them turn the ball over a little more. I think once we started doing that it started to spark us a little bit and defense always creates offense, that’s what Coach always tells us.”
Jacobson said the full-court, trapping defense isn’t something to rely on going forward.
Meanwhile on offense, the Panthers turned it over 16 times and dished out just seven assists.
“As I told the guys after (the game), offensively in particular, we’re out of sorts,” Jacobson said. “And you can see that today, and there were some other spots besides our offense today, which is generally speaking, we’re just out of sorts a little bit right now. And sometimes that happens.”
UNI (4-5) travels to Des Moines next Saturday to take on No. 19 Iowa (7-2) in the Hy-Vee Classic. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (BTN).
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“They have got a really good thing going right now,” Jacobson said of the Hawkeyes. “Whether it be their depth. The quality of their depth. The quality of the guys starting. I just think their roster is really good right now. They look like a very, very good team.”
Phyfe’s status uncertain
Sophomore forward Austin Phyfe (vasovagal syncope) did not play Saturday vs. Dubuque. Jacobson said after the win that the Waverly native’s condition “popped up again” after the team’s visit to Old Dominion two weeks ago.
“(Austin) had a good 10 to 12 days prior to (Old Dominion) and things really were going very well,” Jacobson said. “Since we’ve been back it’s really bothered him each day. He’s had a hard time doing anything on a daily basis since we’ve been back.”
Jacobson said doing what’s necessary to make Phyfe feel better is priority No. 1, but mentioned that a medical redshirt has made its way into their conversations. Phyfe, who’s played in seven of UNI’s nine games, can play in a maximum of nine games before the Panthers’ 16th game to be eligible for a medical redshirt.