UNI Panthers

UNI's Ben Jacobson reflects on critical call in MVC championship loss to Bradley

Panthers bring back more experienced team for 2019-20 season

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson shouts instructions to his team during Sunday's Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game against Bradley at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. (Joe Puetz/USA TODAY Sports)
Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson shouts instructions to his team during Sunday's Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game against Bradley at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. (Joe Puetz/USA TODAY Sports)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said Monday that he has yet to watch the film of his team’s 57-54 loss to Bradley in Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game.

Jacobson did say he’s watched the game’s final two minutes, which included the technical foul issued to Luke McDonnell that resulted in a critical six-point swing for the Braves (20-14), who ultimately earned the conference’s NCAA Tournament bid.

“The way the rule is written on a play like that when something like that happens the officials don’t have — it’s not within the rules for the officials to use any judgement on the play,” Jacobson explained. “It’s just really unfortunate in terms of the timing. There isn’t any other way they could’ve called it different.”


Jacobson went on to suggest looking into how the rule is written, but acknowledged that opening reviews up to interpretation opens the proverbial Pandora’s box. He then added that he’s thought for some time that video monitors haven’t been a net-positive for the game.

Rules and monitors aside, the Panthers (16-18) return much more experience for the 2019-20 season than they did before this season. Asked what it’ll take for his program to take a step forward next year, Jacobson put it simply.

“Get better,” Jacobson said. “You know, one of the things that I talk about from time to time with the guys, is, ‘look, it takes what it takes.’ I think sometimes guys, whether intentionally or unintentionally, try to convince themselves that they’re doing enough.”

After living up to high expectations with MVC freshman of the year honors and leading the Panthers in scoring at 15 points per game, Jacobson mentioned passing, ball-handling and decision-making as areas AJ Green showed the most improvement this season.

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“(Green and Wyatt Lohaus) are the most disciplined guys that we’ve had,” Jacobson said. “I talk about, ‘it takes what it takes,’ those two guys live it.

“The expectations don’t enter into anything he does when it comes game time. (Green is) so prepared that those things are so far on the outside he doesn’t think about them.”

UNI’s biggest question marks next season are likely Austin Phyfe (vasovagal syncope) and Tray Croft (academic non-qualifier).

Phyfe, who was penciled in as the Panthers’ starting five-man before a season-ending medical redshirt, has had nearly two months without issue according to Jacobson.

Croft, who the Panthers knew was a non-qualifier before signing him, is said to be currently fulfilling all that’s being asked of him on a daily basis and is on track for reinstatement by June.

Staying true to comments he made after the 2015-16 season, Jacobson’s season-ending press conference finished with confirmation Northern Iowa will not accept any postseason invitations.

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