CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Before the season, the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team’s experienced and deep roster was quick to talk about spending more time on its offensive game, speeding up its pace and putting more pressure on opposing defenses.
The numbers through 14 games and after Wednesday’s 65-61 loss to Indiana State just aren’t in agreement.
The Panthers scored a season-low 41 points in Sunday’s loss at Wichita State. Wednesday — aside from Seth Tuttle looking like a man on a mission — good shots were hard to come by once again. For good measure, another scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes struck in the first half.
Now, there’s no more talk of UNI games turning into track meets. Head coach Ben Jacobson has a new plan — back to basics.
“When I talk about getting a little simpler with what we’re doing, that’s going to help this team. To get a little better understanding of what we’re trying to get will help them in terms of their confidence, so we have to keep working at that,” said Jacobson.
Following the blowout loss Sunday in which no player hit double digits for just the second time in Jacobson’s tenure, two days of practice were spent on the little things.
“I think one of the real keys for us going forward is getting better at the fundamental things — our positioning on defense, securing rebounds, making the right reads offensively. That lends itself to playing harder, when guys are more sure of what they’re doing,” Jacobson added.
“I like everything from tonight’s game ... there will be some plays, after I watch them, that I won’t like, but from a standpoint of giving ourselves a chance to win the basketball game because of the kind of effort we played with, that was where it needed to be.”
At least for Tuttle, it worked. The sophomore was active from the opening tip. He hit a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession, let out a scream and carried the Panther offense until he fouled out with 1:32 to play.
If nothing else, it was an improvement, and UNI at least appeared to be moving in the right direction. Now the task remains to make it the new status quo and start getting wins because the Panthers are in desperate need of some help.
“I feel like we changed the way we played over the past couple days, from Sunday to this game,” Jacobson added. “Now we have to go a little farther with it, in terms of our energy level. Some of the little things that have to be done to win, we have to take it a little farther from today to Saturday.”