Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panthers on Prowl at MVC Tournament

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panthers on Prowl at MVC Tournament

Article excerpt

The first month of the college basketball season provided evidence that a worthy challenger had arrived to pose a threat to Wichita State's recent dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Shockers had hobbled, albeit without their All-America point guard, to a 5-5 start. Northern Iowa was sitting at 7-3 and had made national headlines by beating then-No. 1 North Carolina and No. 5 Iowa State.

Wichita State then proceeded to win its next 12 games while UNI went 3-8. The Panthers were dismissed by many as a flash in the pan. Coach Ben Jacobson opted to find hope in the mounting losses.

"The guys are searching and working hard to get over the hump," he said during the depths of the difficult stretch. "We have played better in the last two games."

Then came a few wins.

"Our guys have turned the corner a little and they're playing their best basketball. We'll see if we can keep it going."

Eventually, the Panthers ended Wichita State's 43-game home winning streak and finished the regular season with nine wins in 10 games.

"I thought we'd have three or four more wins right now," Jacobson said this week. "We had two and a half weeks we were spinning our tires. But you want to be playing like we're playing right now. That's the best way to go into the tournament."

Northern Iowa usually is playing well when it's time for the MVC tournament, which begins Thursday night with two play-in games at Scottrade Center. Wichita State has been the league's biggest story in recent years, but the Panthers won the tourney last season and have won three of the last seven.

The Shockers ran away with the regular-season title while Northern Iowa at one point was left for dead. The late run earned the Panthers the No. 4 seed and a meeting with Southern Illinois Carbondale on Friday in the quarterfinals.

"We're playing the hottest team in the Missouri Valley Conference," SIUC coach Barry Hinson said. …

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