CHICAGO, Ill. | Matt Bohannon may have said it best -- "it's not like it didn't happen."
Bohannon is referring to the University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team's unusual travel schedule that led up to Wednesday's 58-39 victory over Loyola-Chicago.
Following Sunday's game at Missouri State, weather kept the 11th-ranked Panthers in a hotel for another night. They didn't leave Springfield, Mo. until 3 p.m. Monday and arrived in Waterloo around 4:15 p.m. Following that was a 3 p.m. Tuesday departure for the five-hour bus ride to Chicago.
It happened. And merits questions to perhaps explain a sluggish game at Loyola.
Sluggish in the sense that UNI's open shots were few and far between. Star senior Seth Tuttle didn't handle double teams as well as he has recently and it affected the entire offense. Tuttle had just three points and two field goal attempts at halftime. He finished with 10 points, but it was his lowest per-minute output of the season.
"We went through it, but all teams go through it, so we just had to push past it," Bohannon said. "We still had a day to prepare. We got back and went to class, went through the same routine, traveled here the day before, so at the end of the day, we just have to step on the court and do the things we've done all season."
By that, Bohannon is referring to the way UNI can play defense. Before Tuttle became an All-American candidate, that was the Panthers' calling card. It still is.
"We know (the travel) is not an excuse to play without as much energy or to slack off for a game or two. That's why we came out and played the way we did on the defensive end," said Nate Buss. "We didn't take it as an excuse, we took it as a challenge."
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Loyola was the victim. After missing a couple opportunities early, head coach Ben Jacobson felt the wind was out of the Ramblers' sails and that's all the Panthers needed to really crank up the pressure.
UNI matched the 39 points it gave up to Southern Illinois Jan. 7 for a season low. It won the game by 19 points, and the margin was double digits for the final 17:30.
Even so, the Panthers had to answer questions about not having enough energy. Clearly, it will take a little more than poorly timed bus rides to slow them down as the regular season winds down.
SHALLOW END - Taking out the three minutes Wyatt Lohaus was on the court, UNI's lineup went just eight players deep Wednesday.
This is different from the nine or 10-man rotations that have been important for Jacobson earlier this year.
It seems as if, with the wheels of the UNI offense squeaking, the head coach wanted his best shooters on the court to take advantage of the opportunities that did come.
"With the way they guarded the ball screen -- that aggressiveness and getting out -- and the way they were doubling the post, I wanted to keep Paul (Jesperson) on the floor as much as I could. Kept Nate (Buss) out there to have another shooter on the floor. I say that and Wyatt is shooting 44 percent from 3. I felt like I wanted those guys on the floor, so when the ball got swung around, they were the ones standing there."