CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa freshman AJ Green scored a career-high 27 points but it wasn’t enough as Grand Canyon outlasted the Panthers at McLeod Center Wednesday night, 73-62.
“The first half we had some of the struggles that we’ve had for the better part of 2 1/2 weeks now,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “I thought we fought really hard defensively to keep them down to 29 (at half). The last six minutes of the game they really hurt us (inside).”
Trailing by eight at halftime, UNI (4-7) quickly got within one in the second half on a Wyatt Lohaus 3-pointer with just under 14 minutes to play. Jacobson said after the game that he told his team to stay aggressive during halftime.
“We just talked about continuing to fight until that basket opens up for us and in the second half, it did,” Jacobson said. “That second half is the first time in five games where we’ve had our feet under us and we had a competitive basketball game against a good team.”
After Lohaus brought the Panthers within one, they were able to keep it close for nearly four minutes, but Grand Canyon’s Alessandro Lever proved too much to handle on his way to a team-high 17 points.
“We knew they were going to throw it inside,” Jacobson said. “They knew they were going to throw it inside, and after a few minutes everybody in the building knew they were going to throw it inside. We doubled it all night long, so they knew that was coming, it was just a matter of were they going to play out of that post double (team) better than we were? And we had some possessions go our way and they had some possessions go their way. The last six minutes of the game, they really hurt us (inside).”
Green’s career night appeared destined for a Hollywood ending when he hit back-to-back 3s late in the second half. The freshman’s second of the pair at the 6:58 mark brought the crowd to its feet as the Panthers retook a one-point lead. However, missed free throws, turnovers and an inability to keep the Antelopes off the offensive glass kept UNI from mounting a comeback.
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With four straight Division-I losses, Lohaus — who scored 15 points off the bench after Miles Wentzien and Tywhon Pickford replaced him and Isaiah Brown in tonight’s lineup — acknowledged frustration amongst the UNI players.
“It’s frustrating because we work so hard and put in so much time,” Lohaus said. “We never want to lose so to have the kind of results we’ve had over the last few weeks is definitely frustrating, but at the same time we’ve made strides. At times it hasn’t been as fast as we want but we our making strides and we our putting in the work when the times comes it’s going to push us over the hump.”