CEDAR FALLS — The record says the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team is 12-14 overall and 4-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
That part is history. Head coach Ben Jacobson is more interested in the future.
“The only thing I brought up yesterday ...” Jacobson said Monday at his weekly press conference. “I asked them if there’s a team in our league that it’s been decided who goes to the NCAA Tournament yet. The answer, of course, is no.
“Outside of that, we have to play better. What happens over the last four games or what happens in the Valley tournament is going to be determined by how well we play. We’ve talked about it a lot, we’ve seen a lot of film on it, we’ve looked at a lot of the same plays. We have to play better, so that’s where our focus will continue to be.
“Yesterday, I did bring that up just so they understand there is still a lot that can happen in the next three to four weeks. We have to play better before any of the fun things are going to happen.”
UNI returns to the court tonight when it hosts Evansville (16-11, 6-8) at 7:05 p.m. at the McLeod Center looking to correct a handful of nagging mistakes and build some late-season momentum.
When the teams met Jan. 31 in Evansville, Ind., the Panthers struggled to put points on the scoreboard in a 57-49 defeat.
“They’re good defensively because they’re very physical and they do a good job of being physical without fouling,” said Jacobson. “We didn’t handle it well enough. I also think from a scheme standpoint we’ve got to do a couple of things different. We’ve got to get guys in some different spots in order to see if we can’t take advantage of the way that they want to defend some things.
“That’s going to have to be part of it, and then being able to play through some contact. We’re going to have to have a better toughness level to us at the offensive end so we can make some more plays.”
UNI can also help itself with a stronger start. More often than not, the Panthers have been playing uphill by falling into early deficits.
“We don’t have any big plans to change the starting lineup by two or three guys and hope that makes a difference,” said Jacobson. “We’re talking about all options to see if it’s scheme or lineup, but we do need to get off to a better start, no question.”