U.N.I. entered this season as the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference race but the Panthers have been even better than expected. Their winning streak is now at 12 after a blowout win at Southern Illinois on Wednesday night and coach Ben Jacobsen traces the current surge back to the practice floor.

Coach Ben Jacobsen says they started to practice better about a month ago and have played well in the last 7 or 8 games and that is because they have been practicing better. He says every year is a brand new year, even though they had 7 guys back, this team was different and they had to go to where they were practicing better to play better.

The team made it to the NCAA Tournament but Jacobsen says things have changed with the new year. He says the guys who are back have different games and there are guys who are now seniors and have more ugencye. Jacobsen says you add in some freshmen and they have been building a whole new team for this year.

A big difference this year has been the play of senior center Jordan Egelseder. The Bellevue native is averaging more than 13 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. Jacobsen says Egelseder has been healthy and able to work out in the offseason, and that is what he was missing last year. He says last year he didn’t start playing better until later in the season, but now he is healthy and playing better every week.

The Panthers are 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the Valley. They visit Illinois State on Saturday.