CEDAR FALLS — After receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches men’s basketball preseason polls, Northern Iowa going 0-3 in last week’s Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D., sent early shockwaves through the Panther fanbase.
So much so that coach Ben Jacobson didn’t hesitate to address negativity he was seeing on social media after his team’s early struggles.
“The external noise is always going to be there and it gets louder when there’s some adversity,” Jacobson said. “In particular with having five young guys that were playing a lot of minutes, having new guys on our roster, we talked about (social media) as we do with all of our teams. Those comments came from a place of wanting our players — if they do read anything I would say after the game — to reinforce the same message I’m giving them when we’re talking as a team when it comes to message boards (and) social media. The noise, if you will.”
The Panthers’ 0-3 start — which included losing second-half leads of 16 and eight to Saint Mary’s and Utah State respectively, and committing 14.3 turnovers per game — gave Jacobson’s young team a gut check he says they’re responding well to.
“(The players) are disappointed we didn’t win a game, or two, or, after seeing it all play out getting to that championship game against West Virginia,” Jacobson said. “It’s pretty early in the year to think about being discouraged, so, I like where they’re at from that standpoint. Disappointed that we didn’t win a game, but certainly not discouraged.”
The results from the Crossover Classic were not all negative, though.
Without Trae Berhow available (COVID-19), sophomore Noah Carter stepped into the starting lineup and hit a program-record nine 3-pointers on his way to a 28-point performance in the Panthers’ 93-87 quarterfinal loss to Western Kentucky.
Freshmen Bowen Born and Nate Heise also flashed their potential. Born, who started all three games, averaged 14.3 points and proved himself as a capable point guard.
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Looking ahead, the Panthers originally had 11 days between the seventh-place game against Utah State and their next scheduled game at Richmond, but, UNI on Monday announced the addition of NAIA St. Ambrose to its schedule this Friday at 6 p.m. at McLeod Center.
Berhow is on track to return to the starting lineup this Friday against the Fighting Bees. Meanwhile, redshirt senior forward Goanar Mar and freshman forward Tytan Anderson both remain unavailable.
Jacobson said they’re awaiting feedback on the appeal filed after the NCAA denied Mar’s waiver to be immediately eligible earlier this month. Anderson, who injured his knee in preseason practice, will be out “a few more weeks,” according to Jacobson.