The U.N.I. Panthers try to extend a magical run through the NCAA Tournament when they take on Michigan State in the semifinal round of the midwest regional in St. Louis. The Panthers advanced to the round of 16 after toppling number one Kansas last weekend while the Spartans will be playing without standout guard Kalin Lucas. He ruptured an Achilles tendon in a victory over Maryland.

U.N.I. coach Ben Jacobson says the loss of Lucas won’t change how the Spartans play. He says watching them over the last several years and getting ready for them, he knows they play hard, rebound and defend at a high level on every possession.

Jacobson says the Panthers will need to do a good job of rebounding as all the Michigan State players go after the rebound. He says they will also have to get their defense set and not let the Spartans get out onto the open floor. In their two wins last weekend the Panther’s struggled against full court presses but Jacobson expects Michigan State to stick with it’s traditional half court man.

He says they will play the way they played all year, which is mostly quarter court man-to-man defense, with many a little full court. Jacobson says they have handled the press well at times, and after reviewing their previous games, he thinks they will handle the press.

U.N.I. guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe says the Spartans are good in a number of areas from offensive rebounding to the transition game. Ahelege says even though they beat the nation’s top ranked team he expects the road to get even tougher. He says Michigan State just played in the national championship and they have a lot of experience with this situation.

Tip off is at 8:37p.m. Tennessee and Ohio State meet in the opener and the winners will play on Sunday for the right to advance to the Final Four.

By Elwin Huffman KOEL Oelwein

Photo courtesy of Patti Rust.