UNI Panthers

UNI edges North Dakota in final game before break

Panthers earn 64-62 win in final minutes

Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — It wasn’t pretty, but Northern Iowa erased its five-game losing streak against Division-I teams with a nail-biting 64-62 win over North Dakota at McLeod Center on Saturday.

With 1:16 to play Shandon Goldman — who registered career-highs in points (16) and rebounds (11) — missed a putback dunk attempt that was picked up by Wyatt Lohaus, who then hit a jump shot to give the Panthers a two-point lead.

In the final minute, North Dakota failed to convert three chances to draw even. Kienan Walter missed a pair of free throws, Conner Avants missed a layup and with 1.1 seconds remaining — after a UNI five-second violation — Marlon Stewart’s inbounds pass deflected off the side of the backboard and into Lohaus’ hands.

“For us that last seven seconds wasn’t close to perfect, or what it’s going to need to be,” Jacobson said. “(But) it was perfect, it was great the way it turned out. It’s great for the guys. It’s been a grind.”

Trailing 55-50 with 5:35 to play Jacobson switched to a three-quarter court zone defense and the Panthers (5-7) strung together three stops while going on a 7-0 run to retake the lead.

“Fortunately the zone (defense) worked,” Jacobson said. “(North Dakota) didn’t turn it over in the three-quarter court part of it, but they didn’t score three straight times and we scored on all of those to get ourselves from 55-50 to ... I think we were in the lead when that was done.”

Despite the win, UNI still encountered its share of offensive woes. After a couple rough stretches during the first half, one of which had the Panthers scoring only seven points in a seven-minute stretch, Jacobson sat Luke McDonnell and Tywhon Pickford for all of and most of the second half respectively.

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After his team’s first Division-I win in more than a month, Jacobson acknowledged how much of a grind the past month has been to himself and the players.

“The early part of the schedule was a grind,” Jacobson said. “We had plenty of practice time. Now we’ve been (home) for a long time. We’ve had all kinds of time to clean some things up. I haven’t done a good enough job of moving us forward this month. That part (has) been a grind. This game, Wednesday, like, there’s some possessions that are just a little bit tricky. And I bring that up because that part (has) been a grind. I just think it’s great the guys can have some days at home with their family right now.”

Northern Iowa hosts Stony Brook next Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPN+).

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