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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Panthers topple Bulldogs

Second half surge leads Panthers past in-state rival Drake
Nate Heise, Jacob Hutson and Trey Campbell get the crowd hyped up as the win is in their sights.

When the UNI and Drake men’s basketball teams take the court in February, the fans are always in for a treat. And for the 4,674 people in attendance on Saturday, they got what they paid for. 

The Panthers snapped their three-game skid to the Bulldogs and earned their first win over a team either ranked or receiving votes in the AP Top-25 since November 2021. While the win was significant, the Panthers still have their eyes set on what’s to come. 

“We still got time to play our best basketball,” said UNI coach Ben Jacobson. 

Panther guard Bowen Born got the party started with a 3-point basket in the first 20 seconds of play. Each team exchanged a couple of baskets and, after the first media timeout, UNI held a slight 8-6 lead. Both teams played an aggressive style of defense, calling for lots of ball pressure. UNI knew they would be up for a battle coming into the game. 

“They’re terrific in the half court with their defense, one of the top two or three defensive teams in our league and they may be at the top,” coach Jacobson said. 

Landon Wolf came off the bench for the Panthers and provided a big spark with an old-fashioned 3-point play with 12:58 in the first half. Wolf averages 4.2 points per game but showed up in a big way, providing 10 points on 100% efficiency. Coach Jacobson gave Wolf credit for his hard work during practice. 

We’ve worked hard to get 10 players into double-figure minutes and as close to 15 minutes as we can. We have a lot to offer on that bench.

— Ben Jacobsen, UNI men's basketball coach

“He’s in the gym working all the time, and that can get hard when you’re not in a prominent role,” Jacobsen said. “He knows his role is prominent, but when your minutes are up and down, to still come into the gym and put time in so you’re ready for what he did in the second half, I’m really proud of him for that.”

The next possession, freshman guard RJ Taylor drove to the lane, stepped through and finished the play with a floater in the paint. Taylor provided ball pressure on the Bulldog guards all night and anchored the second unit by playing the point guard position. The Panthers built up a 35-27 lead, but the Bulldogs responded with a run of their own, knotting up the score at 39 with under a minute left. Nate Heise had a runaway layup thanks to a Tytan Anderson block. Born found Heise again in transition for the easy 2twowith short time left, giving the Panthers a 43-39 lead going into halftime. Drake’s Tucker Devries led all scorers with 12 points at the break. 

Out of halftime, the Bulldogs came to play. Drake started the half on a 6-0 run to take a 45-43 lead. Towards the end of their next possession, Panther center Jacob Hutson hucked up a 3-pointer, giving UNI a lead they would never let fade away. Hutson had just one 3-point make coming into the contest. He had 3 makes in the game against the Bulldogs. 

“I was kinda forced to shoot the first one because of the shot clock expiring, so that gave me some confidence, but it’s a lot of fun being able to hit those threes,” the 6’11” Hutson said. 

Heise got out in transition and provided a thunderous slam that ignited the McLeod Center. Born hit back-to-back 3-pointers, sending the packed crowd into a frenzy and giving the Panthers a double-digit lead. Despite the strong UNI run, Drake would refuse to go away. Devries put the team on his back, hitting tough shot after tough shot. His crafty layup with the foul cut the lead all the way down to four. 

Cole Henry got in on the scoring action, making a layup through contact. Henry was a pivotal part of the offense for the Panthers, dishing out a team-high five assists. The Panthers 3-point shooting continued to stay hot. Wolf and Hutson found the bottom of the net, extending the lead back to eight at the eight-minute mark. 

That’s when Tytan Anderson took over on the boards. The junior collected 18 rebounds, tying a career-high and a single home game conference record he set last winter. Anderson snagged multiple rebounds over many Bulldogs, drawing fouls in the process. Anderson’s layup at the four minute mark put the Cats up 84-69, essentially putting the nail in the coffin. Anderson says his mindset doesn’t change from game to game. 

“It’s the same mentality every game to just play as hard as I possibly can and to go after every rebound,” Anderson said. “Some nights they just fall in your hands and sometimes you gotta work for them.”

After some garbage time scoring, the Panthers came out victorious by a score of 91-77. Heise and Anderson led the way for the Panthers, both notching 18 points. Not far behind was Born, who rained in 16 of his own. Born has now scored double-digits in 18 of his last 21 games played. His 3 made 3-pointers tied him with coach Jacobson (2002-06) for 4th on the program’s all-time made 3-pointers list with 203 makes. Hutson added 14 points on an efficient 4-5 shooting. Trey Campbell scored seven points, etching his name in the UNI history books by becoming the 114th player in program history to eclipse 500 career points. 

Fans fill the court as the Panthers defeat the Drake Bulldogs 91-77 (COURTESY/UNI ATHLETICS)

For the Bulldogs, Devries led all scorers with 28 points. He also had a team-high nine rebounds. Colby Garland, who came off the bench, provided 13 points on 6-8 shooting. Atin Wright tallied 10 points in the loss. Kyron Gibson and Nate Ferguson each scored six points, respectively. 

After the loss to UIC on Feb. 11, coach Jacobson decided to make some changes. He had three things he wanted his team to do: play harder, play faster and play 10 guys. All the guys on the bench had gotten good minutes throughout the season, but none were consistent. Jacobson wanted to change that.

“We’ve worked hard to get 10 players into double-figure minutes and as close to 15 minutes as we can. We have a lot to offer on that bench.”

The switch in scenery has seemed to work, as UNI has posted a record of 3-1 since then. The offense has also received a boost, averaging 81 points per game during that stretch. 

Coming up, the Panthers only have two regular season games remaining. The Panthers’ home finale is on Feb. 27 when they take on the Valparaiso Beacons. The Cats beat the Beacons earlier this season on Feb. 14 by a score of 86-67. UNI closes out the regular season with a trip to Carbondale to take on the Southern Illinois Salukis on March 3. The Panthers came out victorious in the first meeting between the two teams. 

Then the Panthers travel to St. Louis for the annual Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, also known as “Arch Madness.” The winner of the tournament advances to the NCAA Tournament, something UNI hasn’t done since 2016 when they made it to the second round. 

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