CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa grinded its way past Coe College in a non-conference men’s basketball game Monday night at McLeod Center, 70-60.
UNI (4-10) coach Ben Jacobson added the game against the Kohawks (0-1) to the Panthers’ schedule last week to prevent a 12-day layoff between its Loyola and Southern Illinois series. And considering all that he and his staff are still working on 14 games into the season, any opportunity to play more has proven valuable.
“We had some good stretches, but they were three- or four-minute-type stretches, Jacobson said. “Then, we had some similar three-to-four minute stretches where we didn’t play very good. Our communication defensively was better at practice than it was tonight on the game floor. You don’t ever like to see that.”
Coe — playing the first game of its delayed season — pulled within three of UNI on Greg Hall’s 3-pointer with 3:14 to play in the first half before ending the first 20 minutes trailing 40-30.
The Kohawks’ 3-2 zone defense proved to be the main ingredient for pulling within a possession late in the first half as UNI’s Austin Phyfe struggled to find his shot.
The senior forward had zero field goal attempts at the half and finished with a season-low four points.
“They sat in that (zone defense) for most the game, we had to run the high-low (offense) and it slowed us down,” UNI guard Trae Berhow said. “Couldn’t really get it to Phyfe, which took a big part of our game out of (the paint). We’ve got to come out better on the defensive end. We came out slow, just sluggish, on that end.”
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Berhow — who finished with 18 points — routinely hit shots to help UNI maintain a comfortable amount of separation.
The senior guard described how he’s settling in to having assumed a decent share of the point guard duties.
“It’s different, just making the reads, I’m pretty used to it now,” Berhow said. “But, what we’re going to have to do down the stretch is we’re going to have to start making shots. We’re going to have to have a lot of people stepping up. Make those open shots. Get Phyfe open. Going to have to play better. Dig down and find a way to win these next few games.”
Nate Heise (18) joined Berhow in double-figures, along with Noah Carter (13) and Bowen Born (10).
Tyhwon Pickford and James Betz didn’t play due to undisclosed day-to-day injuries. Jacobson says both are expected back in the lineup for this weekend’s series at Southern Illinois.
The Panthers tip off against the Salukis at 3 p.m. Saturday (MVC TV).