How Did the Panthers Right the Ship?
(St. Louis, MO) – On January 23rd the Northern Iowa Panthers were in eighth place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a record of 10 – 13 and 2-6 in Valley play. Here on March 10th, the Panthers are 22 and 12 and are the conference tournament champions.
How did the Panthers make such a dramatic change of direction and finish with such a unique conclusion? Often we find a team makes a lineup change (Loyola) or a short term benching (Illinois State), but that was not the case for Northern Iowa.
What did UNI Head Coach Ben Jacobson do? He persuaded his team to ‘stay the course.’ Panther basketball under Jacobson has been about great team defense, fundamental offense, great 3-point shooting and unselfish teamwork.
Northern Iowa won 31 games last year, won the Valley tournament and won an NCAA tournament game. This year’s team went through some low moments and bounced back.
During the celebration on the Scottrade Center basketball floor Jeremy Morgan, Wes Washpun and Coach Jake, told us they just ‘stayed the course.’ Also, listen to Washpun talk about encouragement the team received from former UNI football player and NFL star Kurt Warner.
On January 23rd the Panthers were allowing 58.9 points per game. Since that low point UNI has allowed an average of 52.5 and have allowed as much as 60 just four times in those 13 game times.
Point guard Wes Washpun, was voted as the tournament most outstanding player, and when the Panthers are in a tight game he is at his best. Against # 1 North Carolina Washpun scored 21 points and handed out eight assists. When the Panthers knocked off then # 2 Iowa State Washpun he scored 28, grabbed seven rebounds and dished off 11 dimes. In their two victories over Wichita State he scored eight at Koch Arena and 20 in St. Louis. Of course in the championship game against Evansville, he was magnificent.