CEDAR FALLS — The fast-paced, high-scoring offense Northern Iowa produced in its two exhibition games carried over to Tuesday night’s regular-season opener.
Led by Wyatt Lohaus’ 19 points, the Panthers ran past Bemidji State at McLeod Center, 97-51.
UNI coach Ben Jacobson said he was most impressed with his team’s defense.
“Our defense was better (for) longer,” Jacobson said. “We defended hard through the entire (game) and I thought our passing and ball movement was good again.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes, hitting their first four 3-pointers — two by Isaiah Brown — while maintaining the up-tempo pace established in the preseason. Minutes after its first scoring run, UNI scored 11 unanswered to extend its lead over the Beavers to 29-8 midway through the first half.
With seven 3s and a 47-percent mark from the field, UNI took a 49-24 advantage into halftime and continued to grow its lead in the second half, going on a 29-6 run that spanned just over eight minutes. Besides Lohaus’ game-high 19, A.J. Green and Brown each added 16 while newcomer Trae Berhow was just shy of a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds.
“(Green and Lohaus) have done such a good job in terms of their pace and making things just feel like something good is going to happen,” Jacobson said. “I think that’s helped Trae (Berhow). It’s helped Isaiah even though he’s got some experience. I think that pace has really been established by A.J. and Wyatt in particular.”
The Panthers face their first Division-I regular-season opponent this Saturday when they visit Texas-Arlington. Tip is set for 7 p.m. (ESPN+).
“I like our progress between Upper Iowa and (tonight),” Jacobson said. “Some things were better again. Ty (Pickford) and Austin (Phyfe), and again Ty’s a little bit ahead of Austin, but hopefully they have three more good days and we’ll see where they’re at Saturday.