UNI Panthers

UNI men's basketball looking to 'grow and improve' with another game vs. Drake up next

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)
Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson says his team can “level up one more time” before the season ends.

UNI’s path to leveling up isn’t complicated, according to Jacobson. Playing more, and not taking those opportunities to play for granted, is what he says is necessary to continue making good stretches longer and bad stretches shorter.

“You just get better at it through playing games and through the experiences of both the good things that you’re doing and the things that aren’t working so well,” Jacobson said. “You dig in and you find a way to grow and improve. Those freshmen and sophomores, you’ve got to learn by playing. Having responsibility is the greatest teacher there is. We’ve been more consistent, for the most part, over the last six, seven basketball games.”

The Panthers (7-14, 5-10), coming off a 74-60 win over Valparaiso on Sunday, host their regular-season home finale at 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN+) against Drake (19-2, 10-2), just one week after the Bulldogs won convincingly at Knapp Center, 80-59.

“I think their team is very scary, very talented,” Drake head coach Darian DeVries said. “You start with (Austin) Phyfe and (Trae) Berhow and then the young freshmen are continuing to get better and better. Certainly going to be another hard-fought game in Cedar Falls.”

Off the court for the Panthers, 2019 Missouri Valley Conference player of the year AJ Green had the same corrective surgery performed on his left hip this week that he had on his right hip back in mid-December.

Before the surgery on the left hip, Green’s checkup on his surgically repaired right hip went well and Jacobson says rehab has gone well, too.

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“He’ll have the surgery (Tuesday) and then that puts him — six months is about mid-August where he would be fully recovered from both surgeries,” Jacobson said. “The doctor feels great about how everything looks and feels very confident AJ will have a full recovery. Should be live action mid-August, give or take a little bit. But it’s about six months.”

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