CEDAR FALLS — Five games into its season, the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team is still seeking its first win against a Division-I opponent.
The Panthers (1-4) will have to wait even longer. Saturday’s game against Green Bay was canceled Friday night due to COVID-19. Green Bay’s announcement said there were “COVID-19 complications within the UNI program” and the “decision was made based on recommendations from Green Bay’s medical team.”
UNI was the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference, but an AJ Green hip injury, Antwan Kimmons’ leave of absence, Trae Berhow missing the first three games with COVID-19, Tytan Anderson’s knee injury and the NCAA’s denial of Goanar Mar’s transfer waiver has sent the season down a unforseen path.
Despite the 1-4 start, UNI head coach Ben Jacobson likes his team’s morale.
“One, we cannot let or allow our record to dictate our practice performance, our practice habits, what we do the next day,” Jacobson said. “There’s a fine line there where the competitive spirit doesn’t get touched. And I haven’t seen that at all with our players.”
The Panthers are coming off a 78-68 loss at No. 19 Richmond (4-0) on Wednesday. After falling behind to begin the game, a run put them ahead by 10 with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Ultimately, though, the Spiders’ veterans countered with a run of their own in the second half for the comeback win.
So, rather than focus on his team’s errors, Jacobson says there’s a balance to strike in the film room on the amount of good vs. bad clips to show the team.
“You’re always working so hard from a coaching standpoint to get things right that sometimes — and I’m certainly guilty of it myself as our head coach — sometimes you get away from or don’t do enough with things that they are doing well,” Jacobson said. “So, we’ve tried hard, in particular the last few years, to balance that out.”
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While Green remains out, Jacobson did suggest Friday to The Gazette a decision on the best path forward for the reigning MVC Player of the Year’s hip injury is getting closer.
“In terms of what we do next, no update yet,” Jacobson said. “A lot of conversations and (it) feels like talking with Kyle (Green) each day, it just feels like he and Michelle (Green) and AJ are getting close to that next step.”
The Panthers’ next scheduled game is Wednesday at No. 13 Wisconsin (4-1).