CEDAR FALLS — From basketball and wrestling to track and field, tennis and swimming, it was a good weekend for University of Northern Iowa athletics.
Wins by the men’s and women’s basketball teams extended Missouri Valley Conference streaks. The Panther wrestlers took down in-state rival Iowa State and thrashed Mid-America Conference foe Eastern Michigan. On the track, UNI had a number of highlights, but none brighter than Brandon Carnes’ world-class 60-meter dash performance. The Panther tennis team showed some moxie in a dual victory, and UNI’s swimmers dunked MVC foe Illinois State in the pool.
“What a weekend for all of our teams,” men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson said to kick off UNI’s weekly coaches’ luncheon Monday. “Every time I checked on the old social media, somebody had won a match or an event or a game or it just kept going, so great weekend.”
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Wins over Indiana State and Loyola stretched the Panthers’ win streak to 11, including an 8-0 start in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Friday at 7 p.m., UNI faces a showdown against Drake (also 15-4, 8-0) for the league lead. Admission is free as the Panthers try to pack the McLeod Center for what shapes up as a day of reckoning. UNI is the Valley’s best defensive team. Drake is the top offensive squad.
“Drake honestly is as well-oiled an offensive machine as I’ve seen in a long time,” said UNI coach Tanya Warren. “They’re as good as we’ve seen offensively.
“You’re not going to stop Drake. You only hope to be able to slow them down and try to take away a couple of things that they do, but really your best defense against Drake is your ability to score.
“Bring your friends, bring your family, bring your neighbors, bring everybody that you can bring because it’s going to be a great game.”
TRACK AND FIELD: After Carnes ran a UNI and MVC record 6.59 60 that ranks second nationally behind Tennessee’s Christian Coleman’s 6.54, the logical question is how much faster can he go?
“I know he’s just as motivated to keep getting better. He’s not satisfied,” said head coach Dave Paulsen, whose team had six total performances in Iowa City that ranked among UNI’s all-time top five.
“The margin for improvement gets smaller and smaller the faster you get,” Paulsen noted of Carnes’ performance. “There are still some things technically he can do ... coming out of the blocks, the transition from his drive phase to his top end speed phase could be maybe a little smoother, but he’s running as well as anybody in the country right now, so now it’s just about getting him in position where he can compete against some of those other athletes so he has a chance to just go head-to-head.”
The Panthers host two meets in the UNI-Dome this week with the Jack Jennett Open Friday and the Mark Messersmith Invitational Saturday.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: UNI’s 6-1 win over Neb.-Omaha was not the beatdown it might appear to be.
“That might be the closest 6-1 meet we’ve ever played,” said head coach Chris Sagers, whose team won needed all three sets in four of its five singles wins. “Coming out and getting a lot of tennis in, long matches ... definitely good for our game, definitely good for our mental game getting the win.”
UNI’s next competition is Feb. 3 against South Dakota.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING: A decisive win over Illinois State was just what UNI needed heading into a stretch that features state rivals Iowa State and Iowa.
“It kind of catapaults into probably one of the more difficult stretches of our season,” said head coach Doug Humphrey, whose team swims at Iowa State at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re going to make them show us their best in order to beat us,” said Humphrey.
WRESTLING: Doug Schwab tells his wrestlers all the time that it’s their wrestling program.
“We’ve been really encouraging the guys to take hold and make it their program,” Schwab explained. “It’s not my program. It’s the 30-plus guys we have on our roster. It’s their program. And guys are really stepping up and doing that. That’s what you hope to see.”
Friday’s 20-12 win at state rival Iowa State and Sunday’s 35-4 rout of Eastern Michigan put the Panthers (I7-2, 4-0) in a good spot heading into Mid-America duals this week at Ohio Friday and Kent State Sunday.
“I like where the team’s at,” said Schwab. “I like how they’re competing, and I don’t see that stopping.”