CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Northern Iowa's chances of repeating as the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball champion took a serious hit Thursday with the news that Lucas O'Rear's season is almost assuredly over.

O'Rear, UNI's leading rebounder, endured a fractured right ankle with 1 minute, 54 seconds remaining in Wednesday's win over Illinois State after battling Redbird big man Jackie Carmichael for a rebound.

"He's got a small fracture in one of the bones in his ankle, and the recovery time is two-to-three months," UNI coach Ben Jacobson said Thursday morning.

"It's sad to hear," said teammate Jake Koch. "Lucas, everyone knows his role - he's real important to the team."

O'Rear, a senior, was a two-time MVC sixth man of the year and is ninth on UNI's all-time list in games played with 119. This winter, he had averaged 6.9 points per game and 5.7 rebounds.

Yet, the 6-foot-6 center's play often transcended his stats. His leadership and grittiness often energized his teammates and fans.

O'Rear was scheduled to have surgery late Thursday, with team physician Dr. Jeffrey Clark inserting two screws into his ankle. X-rays showed the senior had a fracture on the outside portion of his right ankle.

"He's extremely disappointed," Jacobson explained of O'Rear. "You know, any time you're in the middle of something - especially something as special as we've got going, that kind of news is hard.

"He's obviously put everything he's got into the program over the last three years. So it's tough."

O'Rear is one of just 22 Panthers to have ever recorded 500 points and 500 rebounds during their careers. His passing and hard-nosed defense will, undoubtedly, be tough to replace.

The Panthers (18-6, 9-3 MVC), however, did beat Bradley, 83-77, on Jan. 9, while O'Rear served a one-game suspension. Koch, a 6-9 sophomore, had a career-high 34 points that night.

"Lucas brought a lot of toughness to the table," said Koch. "But (his injury) will give other players an opportunity to step up. Chip (Rank), Austin (Pehl), Kerwin (Dunham) and I will get extra minutes.

"Everyone's going to need to improve a little bit."

UNI will often utilize four-guard lineups in O'Rear's absence, while its main post players - such as Koch or the 6-6 Rank - will often be undersized. The Panthers have had six games this season in which they've fired up 25 or more 3-pointers, and they figure to become even more perimeter-oriented now.

"We're going to miss (O'Rear's) leadership," said Jacobson. "But we've got a lot of guys that have played a lot of games. When something like this happens, it isn't on one person to do a lot more.

"All 10 guys that dress," Jacobson added, "have a little more responsibility now."

Some basketball players with injuries similar to O'Rear's have recovered as quickly as six weeks. However, accelerating O'Rear's timetable for recovery might be an unfair request, considering he has a professional baseball career to consider as a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds' organization.

Fortunately for the college senior, he's expected to make a full recovery in time to participate in most of the upcoming baseball season.

"That, I think, is the best news that comes out of this situation," said Jacobson.

(15) comments

unifight84

Nooooooooooooooooooooo :*( :*(

WaterlooGal

Oh My! Lucas we feel for you and the team. Heal quickly. As always our Panthers will step it up another notch and win, win, win!

75unigrad

That's a big blow to the Panthers, and I feel very badly for Lucas. The ref stopped play immediately when the injury occurred, but Lucas hobbled to the bench under his own power without training staff assistance. However, when he remained seated on the bench during later timeouts instead of standing around his teammates, I knew that things were not good.

I hope Lucas has a speedy and complete recovery!

thedude

Time for Austin Pehl to step up.

fulla

REOJOE: please return your head to your backside. #32 has done nothing but good for his team and our community. His work ethic and willingness to do things that don't show up in the box score make him 2nd to none in NCAA basketball. And frankly his style of play is appreciated around here. His efforts don't show up in the box score like you don't show up in the McLeod Center. Get over yourself. This young man has given more to UNI and its fans than you could ever knock him down for. He came back from a budding professional baseball career to play one more season and earn a degree. To do what? Set screens, scrap for loose balls and defend like a brick wall. One can only wonder where you were when 'the Burns' were too hot to handle for the MVC, UNLV and #1 ranked KU. I suppose those were a distraction too? Your comment is simply stupid. Long live the legend of Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke - UNI's hardest working basketball player, ever.

Get Real

How does fullas statement stay up but REOJOE's doesn't? So much for free speech at the WC. Amazing how people act like the end of the world has hit, it's basketball, small stuff in the game of life.

John14541

Thank You Lucas O'Rear for making the long cold Iowa winters more exciting for Panther fans. I wish you a quick recovery.

reojoe
reojoe

[quote]Get Real said: "How does fullas statement stay up but REOJOE's doesn't? So much for free speech at the WC. Amazing how people act like the end of the world has hit, it's basketball, small stuff in the game of life."[/quote]

Yes, that is odd, conssidering I said nothing offensive. I just don't get the Amish beard, that's all.

unifight84

He will go down as one of my favorite Panthers of all time. I'm so sad his season had to end this way!! :(

SilentObserver

Thank you, Fulla, for your wonderful post. Lucas should be applauded for coming back for his senior year to support his team, his university and his community, when it would have been much easier to leave and pursue baseball.

Lucas, you have made Panther Basketball much more exciting and an entire community and nation of Panther fans thank you for all that you have done. You showed what hard work and being a team player meant.

Reojoe, we have to tolerate your ignorant comments on many other topics, but please, keep your PERSONAL attacks on Lucas' appearance to yourself. They have no place on this board. This is a young man who has given his heart and soul to his team and his sport and has suffered a heartbreaking injury at the most critical time of the season, and his facial hair has nothing to do with anything; except your desire to be insulting and to see your name in print.

fulla

No REOJOE that's not what you implied. You insinuated that his 'amish' beard contributed to his broken ankle. Your attempt to be coy came off as foolish and pretentious. This is a great young man who emulates the blue collar nature of this community. He passed up furthering his personal career to play for a team that has brought the most notoriety to the CV since Kurt Warner. I question how many games you've been to in the McLeod Center....and if you have actually ponied up some loot to support UNI, you're probably the guy that tells fans like me to sit down and be quiet. So fight for your freedom of speech, just make sure whatever comes out of your pie hole doesn't sound as ridiculous as it reads.
Sincerely yours,
PANTHER NATION

MouthyMom
MouthyMom

Wishing Lucas a speedy recovery, we'll sure miss you on the courts! Heal well and we'll be looking to see you on the diamonds in the not too distandt future!

reojoe
reojoe

Stop grandstading and save me the phony outrage; it's an ATHLETE, for God's sake.

I refuse to play the game that athletes are somehow above other, regular people (and this is coming from a former athlete).

class of 993

Joe says,"It's an athlete for God's sake." Joe, Mr. O'Rear is a young man not an "it" He is an athlete who has won high accolades from his peers in the last two years and instead of chasing the dollar he is fulfulling his contract to the University and people of the Cedar Valley and returned to complete his education. Luke has brought fans to the Mcleod Center and has brought notoriety to UNI on a national scale. Yes he also has had one hell of team and coaching staff around him. Having run into Luke several times and at games and other functions he is a wonderful young man that does not need your drivel. I wish the blue collar work horse the best in his recovery and his future. I am sure that he will be a success based on the work ethic he has proven time and again.

wujethro
wujethro

reojoe's claim to fame seems to be posting annoying inane comments . i'm a uni grad and so proud of that school and it's recent athletic successes. go panthers! and BOOOOO! reojoe!

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