CEDAR FALLS — Balls were bouncing, sneakers were squeaking and referees were blowing their whistles again at McLeod Center Friday night, but despite Northern Iowa’s comfortable 98-53 win over St. Ambrose, minds were largely elsewhere.
UNI star junior guard AJ Green missed Friday night’s game with a hip injury that the team announced earlier in the day he’s continuing to get evaluated.
Coach Ben Jacobson said on his weekly radio show Thursday night that Green will be out indefinitely while he decides whether to rest, rehab and play through the injury, have season-ending surgery or perhaps discover a new, third option.
Jacobson revealed that Green has dealt with general tightness before in his hips, but didn’t experience pain until UNI’s game against St. Mary’s last Thursday at the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The 14th-year coach added that reorganizing the offense without Green will be important going forward, but their emphasis as a staff was communicating with the team as Green continues to evaluate his injury and sophomore guard Antwan Kimmons takes a leave of absence for family reasons related to the pandemic.
“I guess my mind, and really our staff, we spent a lot more time talking about and talking with Antwan and AJ (and) our team,” Jacobson said. “Anything to do with our players, our staff, our program, anything to do with those things are (just) going to take precedent over what’s going on with a single game or adjustments to the offense or defense.”
Without Green the Panthers easily outclassed the NAIA Bees, shooting 52 percent from the field and making 10 3-pointers.
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Senior guard Trae Berhow returned to the starting lineup after missing all three games last week (COVID-19) and led all scorers with 19 points.
After the win Berhow revealed that he was cleared by a doctor last Wednesday and drove two hours toward Sioux Falls to join his teammates before getting a call from Jacobson that the tournament would not allow him to join UNI’s active roster.
“It felt like yesterday we were just playing here with all the fans. So, just during warmups it was weird, but it feels like home,” Berhow said, before speaking to Green’s injury and Kimmons’ leave of absence. “It kind of just explains this year. Got to just go with the flow and take the hits. The freshmen are stepping up. Sophomores are stepping up. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
Joining Berhow in double figures Friday night were Noah Carter (17 points), Bowen Born (16), James Betz (14) and Nate Heise (11).
Born, Tywhon Pickford, Berhow, Carter and Austin Phyfe started.
UNI travels to Virginia on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. (ESPN+) tip against No. 19 Richmond (2-0).