The record-setting season for the U.N.I. Panthers came to an end Friday in a 59-52 “Sweet 16” loss to Michigan State in St. Louis. U.N.I. led 29 to 22 at halftime, but the Spartans opened the second half with a 17-5 run and took control, holding the Panthers to only five field goals in the second half.
Guard Ali Farokhmanesh says they had a hard time scoring. He says it was frustrating, as it is whenever you’re not shooting the ball well. Farokhmanesh says you have to give Michigan State some credit for making it tough on them. U-N-I won it’s second straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles, they won the school’s first NCAA tournament game in 20 years and advanced to the “Sweet 16” for the first time in school history.
They upset top seed Kansas in the second round. Farokhmanesh said it was hard to think about the accomplishments after the loss.
He says they enjoyed playing with each other so much, and they didn’t want the run to end. He says they will look back on it later on, but says it’s hard now.
Fellow senior Adam Koch agreed. Koch says it’s tough after the loss to appreciate some of the things they accomplished. Coach Ben Jacobson says their deep bench has allowed them to stay fresh late in the game most of the season, but they couldn’t hit the shots in this game.
Jacobson says they’ve really played well all year long in the last three minutes and they played well in this game, they just missed on a couple of opportunities.
Jacobson agree with his players that all that has happened in the last couple of weeks hasn’t sunk in. “It hasn’t, it will at some point,” Jacobson says. He says the team will have a lot to look back on and a lot to be proud of, but not now, and he says he’s so proud of the effort as things got bigger. Jacobson says they came out on the biggest stage they have been on and were in position to win another game.
Farokhmanesh, Koch and Jordan Egleseder are three senior starters the team will lose next season along with two other seniors. Jacobson says they leave a big legacy. He says the importance that they put on being unselfish and on relationships has had a far-reaching impact. Jacobson says the senior leadership allowed them to have “some success and a lot of fun.”
Adam Koch led the Panthers with 13 points, Kwadzo Ahelegbe had 12. The Panthers finish the season with a school-record 30 wins against just five losses.