The UNI Panthers, Missouri Valley Conference champions entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed. They dropped their first opponent, No. 12 Wyoming, 71-54. The win over Wyoming set the school record for most wins in a season with 31 victories.

The Panthers were spot on scoring-wise as they had five players reach double figures. Paul Jesperson led the Panthers with 16 points. The bench was a big factor as they contributed to 41 of the Panthers’ 71 points.

The Panthers came out swinging as they used a 10-0 run to give them an 18-9 lead with 13:05 left in the first half. Wyoming started to catch up with the help of Charles Hankerson Jr., who made three 3-pointers to cut the Panther lead to 29-19 with 5:50 left in the half. The first half ended with a buzzer-beater three from Hankerson Jr.

The second half started off strong for the Panthers as they used a 13-3 run to give them some much-needed breathing room. Wyoming’s Nance Jr. took over as he put 12 straight points on the board to cut the lead to 50-37 with 12:25 left. Jesperson and Washpun teamed up to bring the lead to double digits and would not let Wyoming within ten points again.

The next opponent for UNI was No. 4 Louisville, who brought the Panthers’ incredible season to a close with a 66-53 win.

The game was a defensive battle as both teams came with top 20 ranked defenses. 

Louisville’s defense was the largest factor of the game as they made the Panthers turn the ball over 10 times and kept them to 39 percent shooting. Terry Rozier III was too much for the Panther defense as he put up 25 points and seven assists.

In an interview with WHOTV 13, Coach Ben Jacobson said he knows how good his team really is.

“We have a team that’s good enough, on another day, to maybe win this game,” Jacobson said. “Because of the things they put into it, we got a really good team.”

Even though the Panthers were knocked out early in the tournament, this season was one of the best seasons in school history. Their record of 31-4 marks the most wins in school history. For seniors Seth Tuttle, Deon Mitchell, Marvin Singleton, Nate Buss, and Max Martino, this was a season to remember.

For power forward, Seth Tuttle, senior sports psychology major, this was his last chance to win a title. 

“When you put that much time into it, it hurts when it comes to an end,” Tuttle said in an interview with WHOTV.