UNI Panthers

UNI men's basketball ready for season opener vs. Western Kentucky

After coronavirus shake-ups, Panthers and Hilltoppers set to battle in Sioux Falls

Northern Iowa's AJ Green brings the ball down the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game agains
Northern Iowa's AJ Green brings the ball down the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference men's tournament Friday, March 6, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa is pretty sure it’s playing Western Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU) in the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.

However, the only thing at this point that’s a certainty is playing at the Crossover Classic.

Like other multi-team men’s college basketball events across the country set to begin this week, the Crossover Classic has undergone a number of shake-ups due to COVID-19, and, with the Panthers and Hilltoppers scheduled for another round of COVID-19 tests Wednesday morning, yet another shake-up can’t be ruled out.

Originally, UNI was scheduled to play West Virginia at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but after Texas A&M and Wichita State withdrew from the event for coronavirus-related reasons, the matchups were shuffled and an experienced Hilltoppers team that went 20-10 last season became the Panthers’ new opponent.

“Their center (Charles Bassey) is one of the best centers in the country (and) their point guard (Taveion Hollingsworth) is terrific,” Jacobson said. “They’re just older guys. They’ve played a lot of games and they’ve had a lot of success together.

“Specific to how they play, they’re going to push it hard in transition. They do a great job of running their stuff. They do a great job of getting the ball inside. Then, their point guard makes a lot of plays.”

The shake-ups haven’t only happened to the Crossover Classic, either. In a release Tuesday, UNI announced senior guard Trae Berhow did not make the trip to Sioux Falls “in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.”

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“He does feel great,” Jacobson said. “In all three of (our COVID-19) cases we’ve been able to continue with our workouts because of the protocols that are in place. Our administration has done a terrific job. Don Bishop, our athletic trainer, has been absolutely awesome.”

Berhow, a returning starter who was second on the team in points per game (12.5), will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Noah Carter.

“This is why you work on your game, and in Noah’s case, this is why you work on your conditioning,” Jacobson said. “This is why you put in extra time after practice so that you’re prepared regardless of what your role is going to be on game night.

“He’s a guy we’re counting on this year to be one of our better players. He’s ready to take on an expanded role this year.”

UNI will play either St. Mary’s or Memphis in the event’s second round on Thursday at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m.

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