CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s non-conference season ended with a lackluster 73-63 loss to Stony Brook at McLeod Center on Saturday night.
Without leading scorer Akwasi Yeboah (18.6 ppg) the Seawolves were led by Andre Garcia’s season-high 24 points.
UNI coach Ben Jacobson said Garcia’s hot hand (9-for-9 shooting) forced the Panthers into defensive adjustments.
“(Garcia) was a real challenge for us as we saw in the second half,” Jacobson said. “We made an adjustment so that he wasn’t able to get that same 3-point shot on the sideline, but at the end of the day, in the second half there were too many possessions where our communication wasn’t good enough. The commitment and the fight to get a defensive stop when we needed to — we didn’t show that in the second half when we needed to.”
Trailing by 13 with seven minutes to play, Jacobson put his team into a half-court, trapping defense. A week ago, the same move translated into a win against North Dakota, but the Panthers were unable to replicate last week’s success as Stony Brook shot 56 percent from the field in the second half.
UNI’s attempt at a comeback got no closer than seven points, when Trae Berhow hit a 3-pointer with just over three minutes to play.
Wyatt Lohaus and AJ Green paced the Panthers (5-8) with 23 and 16 points, respectively. However, no other players scored in double figures as the rest of UNI’s offense combined to shoot 6-of-21 (29 percent).
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“I don’t know if I can put my finger on it,” Jacobson said of the lack of a third scorer. “We’ve had some guys that have really practiced well, and really shot the basketball well in practice. There’s no question we need seven or eight guys scoring, and seven or eight guys just feeling good about what they’re doing offensively.”
UNI’s eight non-conference losses is its most since 2000-01, Sam Weaver’s last season as head coach. Given its first four conference opponents — Bradley, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Drake — each have winning records, Jacobson is well aware of the urgency for his team to improve.
“We don’t get the (defensive) stop right now when all of us feel like this would be a great time to get a stop. That’s what needs to change the most,” Jacobson said. “A lot goes into that, but that’s what needs to change the most.”
Northern Iowa opens conference play next Wednesday in Peoria, Ill., against Bradley (8-5). Tip is set for 7 p.m. (ESPN+).