After rolling through the opening half of the Missouri Valley Conference race the UNI Panthers open the second half at home against Illinois State on Wednesday night. The Panthers are 8-1 and own a two game lead over the second place Redbirds and UNI coach Ben Jacobsen says Illinois State is much more than just a good offensive team.
Jacobsen says he’s been impressed with their defense and the fact they are giving up around 60 points in league play and rebounding the ball well on both ends. The Panthers have won eight straight games and Jacobsen says the key for the second half is to keep improving.
He says they have worked really hard at practice to get better, and he says that’s the key right now, to continue to get better as things are going to get harder. For the second time in three weeks UNI junior forward Adam Koch has been named the Missouri Valley Conference player of the week.
Koch scored a career-high 30 points in Sundays win at Missouri State, including 18-of-20 at the foul line. Jacobsen says Koch has made a lot of strides and it started in the off-season. Jacobsen says Koch did a good job in the weight room and is about 15 pounds heavier and has more strength.
Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich says there is no area right now in which the Panthers are not playing well. Jankovich says they are strong in every single area and he says he doesn’t find a weakness and that means a team is "pretty darn good."
The Redbirds are 6-3 in the league race but Jankovich says his team cannot put too much pressure on the outcome of this game. He says that’s the challenge to not get too high or too low and to be excited to play, but not too excited. Illinois State is 17-3 overall. UNI is 14-6.