Career Day for Born Gives UNI First Division I Win of 2022
The metaphorical monkey is off this UNI basketball squad's back. The Panthers got their first Division I win of the season Saturday against Northern Illinois, 83-76.
But boy, did it start sloppy.
Over the first ten minutes of play, both teams combined for 12 turnovers, and it wasn't because either team is elite defensively. Several passes from the Panthers inadvertently ended up in the hands of the Huskies, and likewise for UNI. That, or a rebound would ricochet off a player and end up out of bounds, or someone would a wide-open shot.
To start the game, the Huskies were shooting a measly 8 percent from the field, going 1-11 from the field. After a Michael Duax layup nine minutes in, UNI led 14-6.
It wasn't pretty basketball.
"With a young group and guards that were picking up and using pressure, it's something we practice," starting point guard Bowen Born said after the game. "We know that everyone can handle (that pressure). Sometimes it's just about calming everybody down. We know the skills, we have the skills, it's just about executing them."
"Today, we turned it over too much in the first half," Coach Ben Jacobson said. "We took some of our opportunities off the table. ... With where we're at from a roster standpoint with the number of young guys out there, it's just going to be that way sometimes."
After Born's message to the team, things smoothed out -- at least for a little while.
Over the ensuing eight minutes, each team put up 17 points. For UNI, red-shirt freshman and Cedar Falls native Landon Wolf scored all ten of his first-half points, and the Panthers led 31-23.
Then things got ugly again.
After Born recorded his second foul of the half and was subbed out, the lineup consisted of Wolf, Duax, Trey Campbell, Drew Daniel, and Derek Krogmann -- three freshmen and two walk-ons.
The Panthers scored one point on a Campbell free throw before the end of the first 20 minutes.
The start of the second half wasn't much better.
Not only did the Panthers go scoreless for nearly the first three minutes, but the Huskies jumped out to a 48-41 lead after a 17-9 run between 18:59 and 13:16. Northern Illinois had UNI fans shaking in their boots.
The purple and gold couldn't buy a bucket. Probably because NIU's Keyshawn Williams got them all. NIU's leading scorer poured in 11 of his 28 points over the stretch.
Then the Panthers went on a run of their own, going up 60-52 and putting up 19 points to NIU's four between 12:32 and 8:19. UNI spread the wealth over their run, as five different players scored -- including a thunderous slam by Duax on an alley-oop from Born.
"I caught the ball and the first thing I did was see Mike up the floor in the corner," Born said. "There was one guy between me and him. We kind of made eye contact and judging from his dunk a couple of games ago, I knew he could go up and get it. It was a pretty spectacular play."
The Huskies wouldn't go away, keeping it within single digits for the remainder of the contest.
But they couldn't stop Born. Over the final eight minutes of the game, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year put up 15 of his career-high 30 points.
"Me and Tytan had a pretty good two-man game going on," Born said. "(The NIU) big never really switched his (pick and roll coverage), so I was making all the same reads and doing all the same things I normally would."
Born scored the final seven points of the contest, pushing the Panthers to victory over the Huskies, 83-76.
"Now we have played four Division I games," Coach Jake said. "That, more than anything we do, is going to speed up the growth process (for our young players). We just have to keep playing games. I love what the guys are doing. Yeah, we're making mistakes. But, you talk about having fun at practice, playing hard in games, being in position to win against good teams -- I love what these guys are doing."
Next, UNI (2-3) will travel to Peoria, Illinois to take on Bradley (3-3) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first MVC matchup of the season.