Twenty years after their first NCAA Tournament victory the UNI Panthers will bid for their second one tonight in Oklahoma City when they play UNLV in the opening round of the Midwest Regional. Defense and guard play are critical in the tournament and the Panthers have been strong in both areas during a 28-4 season that included the Missouri Valley regular season and tournament titles.
UNI coach Ben Jacobson says the guards have been very good from the starters to the players off the bench, and he says they have enough versatility to play several of the guard positions. This is the Panthers fifth trip to the tournament in seven years and after four straight first round losses Jacobson says a win this evening would be a boost for the program.
He says people still talk about beating Missouri 20 years ago for the first win and Jacobsen says it is important to the program.
It has been 11 days since the Panthers last played and senior forward Adam Koch they hope to avoid a slow start. Koch says staying focused has been the key and they have done that all year.
It was a slow start that doomed the Panthers in a 61-56 loss to Purdue in last year’s opening round.
Senior center Jordan Egelseder says they need to come out ready to play, and most have had the experience of the tourney and need to be ready this year. Junior guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe believes the Panthers need to set the tone with a good first half and good defense.
UNLV is 25-8. Tip off is scheduled for 6:10p.m.