What to Know
Saturday's game between the Hawkeyes and the Panthers will be the 29th meeting between the two schools with Iowa currently holding a 19-9 advantage. However, the Panthers have won 3 of the last 5, including the last one back in 2014-15. Iowa played probably the worst half of basketball I've ever witnessed in the second half when they scored just 15 points.
This year, the Panthers are 5-4 with a nice win over Oklahoma, who is ranked as the 40th best team in the country by Ken Pom. They have two losses to a good Xavier team, one was by 8 and the other was by 22. Their other two losses came against George Mason and Wyoming.
Many thought they'd struggle to replace Seth Tuttle after he posted 15 points and 7 rebounds per game in the 14-15 season. He led the Panthers to a 31-4 record and a win in the NCAA Tournament.
Well, last season the Panthers made their way back to the tourney after Wes Washpun hit a huge game winning shot in the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference tourney.
This time the Panthers knocked off Texas to open up the tournament as an 11 seed, but later blew a huge late lead to Texas A&M in the second round of the tournament. The Panthers should've been headed to the Sweet 16, but were headed home heartbroken.
This season they have to replace Washpun, Matt Bohannon, and Paul Jesperson. That trio averaged 37 points per game combined and did a lot of things well for UNI. Washpun could get to the rim seemingly at will, while Bohannon and Jesperson both shot 40% from behind the arc.
The top four scorers this season for the Panthers are all from Iowa with their top scorer, Jeremy Morgan, coming from Iowa City West High. This game will without a doubt hold meaning for a majority of the Panther players. For a couple of reasons.
One, beating a school that didn't recruit you, especially one in your home state, has to be a great feeling. And two, anytime you knock off a power 5 school as a mid-major, it feels good. The Panthers are no stranger to beating teams they shouldn't on paper. They've been doing it for a while.
As long as UNI is still being coached by Ben Jacobson, the Panthers will be a dangerous team. Jacobson holds a 225-122 record in 11 seasons at UNI.
Who To Know
Morgan is the main guy for the Panthers. He's played significant minutes ever since he stepped on campus back in 2013. He was a standout football and basketball player at Iowa City West and chose to continue his hoops career at UNI.
He's averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds a game so far this season and has recorded 3 double-doubles. He's fresh off a 38 point performance against North Dakota and has been an absolute stat-sheet-stuffer so far this season. In the win over Oklahoma he scored 17 points, had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 7 steals, and 4 blocks.
He's been the go to guy for Jacobson early on and Iowa is going to have to key on him hard because you can't let him be the one that beats you.
After Morgan, the Panthers have four players that average between 8-10 points. Spencer Haldeman, Klint Carlson, Jordan Ashton, and Bennett Koch make up the supporting cast for Jacobson's bunch and they do it well. With the exception of Koch, all of the those players, including Morgan, are shooting over 40% from behind the arc. They are going to take good shots, make few mistakes, and defend the heck out of you.
The Panthers also got junior point guard and former Iowa City West prep, Wyatt Lohaus back after he missed 3 weeks or so with an ankle injury. He played in the game against North Dakota 5 days ago.
The second option for the Panthers can be hit and miss. Somedays it is Karlson and on others it's Haldeman or Ashton. The Hawkeyes will need to prepare for all of them to have big games, because they are more than capable.
Stats to Know
The biggest thing the Panthers do is try to slow you down. They come in averaging just 69 points per game, but are also giving up an average of just 62. That is good for a top 30 scoring defense in all of Division 1. It's going to be a game with contrasting styles and the Panthers have to control the pace because they don't have the offensive fire power to keep up with the Hawkeyes, who average close to 85 points per game.
Even though the Panthers do like to slow things down, defend, and take good shots, those shots don't seem to be falling. They rank 284th in Division 1 in field goal percentage and 321st in 2 point field goal percentage. However, they shoot the three at a 39% clip, which is top 50 in the country. Iowa has a tendency to give up quite a few three pointers, so they must avoid that on Saturday because the Panthers will knock them down.
The Panthers have also struggled when it comes to the glass. They rank 329th in total rebounding and 340th in offensive rebounding, so they aren't getting many second chances. Junior center, Ted Friedman has started the past couple of games and at 6'11" he gives them a big body, but they've relied heavily on Koch, Carlson, and Morgan to carry the load when it comes to the glass. The Hawkeyes have done an exceptional job recounding so far this season, especially on the offensive side. So, how the rebounding shakes out with be a big thing to watch on Saturday.