UNI Offense Stalls in Re-Start to Conference Play
Back into the thick of their Missouri Valley Conference schedule, Northern Iowa fell to Missouri State to restart conference play, 79-67.
A hot offensive start through the first ten minutes of the game had the Panthers and the Bears on pace to both score over 80 points. With 9:26 remaining, Mo. St. held a 23-22 lead.
Then the UNI offense sputtered -- in part because of the suffocating ball pressure from the Missouri State defense. Not only were the Panthers struggling to make shots, but they were struggling to get shots.
Between 11:15 and 2:11 in the first frame, the Bears forced nine Panther turnovers. In total over the first 20 minutes, Mo. St. scored 16 points off those turnovers.
"(The Bears) didn't do anything differently defensively over the first nine or ten minutes," Coach Ben Jacobson said after the game. "It wasn't something they changed. You're going to have to continually make some really good individual plays to get to the right spots against Missouri State the way they're playing right now. ... It felt like one or two of our guys got sped up just a little bit. We didn't make the next pass or the next read we had to make."
"Our turnovers hurt us," Bowen Born added. "To start the game we did a pretty good job, but late in the first half we had a couple of them that led to easy buckets. ... I felt like our offense wasn't too bad with the way they were guarding us."
Behind a 17-7 run over the final 7:41, Mo. St. took a 40-29 lead into the half. If it weren't for a last-second, step-back three from Born, the lead could've very easily been 14.
The ball pressure continued into the second half, and a clogged lane and made baskets by the Bears came along with it. Between an inability to get to the basket or convert around the rim when they got there, nothing went the way of the Panthers offensively.
"(The Missouri State paint defense) was something we scouted," Born said. "We needed to take care of the ball. That was an area we didn't do as well."
The purple and gold offense finished with 15 turnovers, and Mo. St. blocked six Panther shots.
"We've got young guys out there," Coach Jacobson said. "We're going to have some stretches where something jumps up and gets us. That's going to be part of it. We're just going to have to keep working to shorten those stretches."
A few garbage time buckets over the final three minutes made it look a lot closer than it was, as UNI outscored the Bears 13-3 to make a dent in the one-time 22-point lead.
Georgia transfer Dalen Ridgnal led all scorers, finishing with 24 points for Mo. St. behind shooting 5-9 from three. Born put up 23 to lead the Panthers in the 13-point loss.
"There are still more opportunities to improve," Born added. "There are learning curves everywhere and so this is a good opportunity for us to realize a lot of our games are going to be physical and difficult. We're going to have to box out, we're going to have rebound, we're going to have to defend. We're ultimately going to have to put our foot down and win games."
Next, UNI will take on Illinois State (6-8,1-2) for the first time this season on Saturday, December 31 at 2 p.m. in Normal.