Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson talked during Monday’s Missouri Valley Conference call about this week’s game against UE in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Aces and Panthers tip at 7 p.m. Wednesday, with UE looking for just its second road win of the season.
Jacobson on his team’s approach to playing UE: “Over the past number of seasons when we’ve played against each other, one of the things — or maybe the thing — that’s stood out when playing against Marty (Simmons) and his teams, is how hard they play, how competitive they are, and how much toughness they bring. If you’re able to match that the night that you play Evansville, that for me, our program, has been a good indicator of where our toughness and competitiveness are at. Wednesday, we’ll get that chance again.”
Knowing that, the Panthers are concentrating on two areas in practice this week. “Our focus has been on the rebounding area, and that’s an area we’ve still got to get much better at,” Jacobson said. “The other thing I’ve talked to the team quite a bit about is playing with a high level of competitiveness. In a basketball game with Evansville, those two things are going to be important. We’re going to have to compete at the highest level, we’re going to have to rebound the basketball, and it presents a real challenge with their defense. They’re going to do a good job of keeping that ball in front of them and do a good job of helping. They’re very physical with their defense. We’re going to have to find ways to combat that.”
Jacobson on what he’s seen out of UE so far this season: “Evansville is obviously coming off wins and playing good basketball, even in a loss at Creighton. For the better part of that game, they played very well and Creighton did such a good job of scoring the basketball that they weren’t quite able to keep pace with them. But I thought they played well in that game…Marty’s got his most experienced team. Those guys who are seniors and who have been in the program are playing good basketball, and they’re getting some help from that new center.”
Jacobson well knows what his team will see in UE senior Colt Ryan. The Panthers’ coach expects more contributors, though. “Obviously, being in the league now the entire time that Colt Ryan’s been with Evansville, he’s a difficult guy to play against,” Jacobson said. “He can score in all ways. I think one of the differences with their team this year is that the experience of the players around him is greater, and those guys are playing with more confidence at the offensive end of the floor. It makes for a tough matchup.”
More Jacobson on Ryan, who scored 29 points in the Aces’ comeback win last season at Northern Iowa: “In that game last year, I don’t know what he had at halftime, but it wasn’t very much. The second half, he really got going, and I think that’s one of the things where he stands out. He’s got enough patience and the ability to go possessions or a number of minutes without necessarily getting a lot of shots or a lot of points on the board. And then al of a sudden, he can get a lot of them in a short period of time.”