UNI Advances in NIT, Green Moves to 4th All-Time in Scoring
After a disappointing end to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Panthers could have easily folded, given up, and decided to move on to next season.
They blew the Saint Louis Billikens out of the water in a game where the final score doesn't do it justice. UNI took the victory, 80-68.
In the first half, the Panthers came out firing on all cylinders, hitting nearly everything past halfcourt. 33 of their 48 first-half points came from behind the three-point line.
Senior Trae Berhow poured in four shots from deep and 2021-2022 MVC Player of the Year AJ Green added three of his own.
"This team is built that way," head coach Ben Jacobson said after the win. "Tonight we made a lot of them, but we've got a number of different guys that play with a lot of confidence and are terrific shooters. ... This team is built to make a lot of threes."
Saint Louis wouldn't go away, though.
With a barrage of mid-range jumpers and three-point shots, Gibson Jimerson, the Billikens' leading scorer (16.1 points per game), put up 12 of his team's 38 first-half points. Junior forward Francis Okoro wasn't making things easy on 6'6 center Noah Carter either -- he scored Saint Louis' first six points and finished the half with eight.
But every time Saint Louis got within reach, whether it be four points or simply single digits, the Panthers responded with a run of their own.
After SLU got within four at the 14:22 mark in the second half, it never got closer. Over the next seven minutes, the Panthers went on a 20-0 run, making the lead 75-51 with 6:39 to go.
"We had a really good stretch to start the half (defensively)," Jacobson said. "We guarded the ball better, and we rebounded the ball better in that first 10 to 12 minutes."
The hot shooting remained consistent, and UNI finished the night with 16 three-pointers, just one short of their season-high 17 against Arkansas in November.
Coach Jacobson said a significant part of the Panthers' performance last night was the fact that they had fresh legs, having had 11 days off from competition:
"We were able to take two days off last week. Our practices were short. ... When you go from playing every third of fourth day and just trying to get recovered in between to having some time to recover and work on things, I do think it helped."
AJ Green finished with 21 and leapfrogged one of his coaches and UNI great Seth Tuttle (1,747 points) to place himself fourth on the all-time scoring list in Panther basketball history. In three years with the Panthers, he's tallied 1,753 career points.
"AJ is a tremendous worker. He was that way before he got to (UNI). ... He always wants to get better. You just love seeing that as a staff. You like seeing the guy get rewarded for that kind of work. I'm really proud of him. His determination is off the charts."
Noah Carter poured in 19, dished out five assists, and hauled in four boards while Berhow added 18 points on six three-pointers. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Jimerson led the way in scoring for the Billikens, finishing the night with 20 points.
Up next, the Panthers will take on BYU on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Provo, Utah.