After a shaky holiday break, the University of Northern Iowa was in need of a shakeup. The Panthers did just that on Saturday against Illinois State, using their fourth different starting lineup combination of the year.
Instead of sophomore guard Deon Mitchell, coach Ben Jacobson gave senior center Austin Pehl his first start of the season.
“While watching our game film, I liked the way that lineup played,” Jacobson said at his weekly news conference. Even though it’s very different, there was some things I really liked about it, and I liked the way Deon played.”
In the nine games that both Mitchell and James started in together, the Panthers were just 2-7.
“Pehl adds another level of competitiveness to our team. He’s got a bit of fire to him, and he’s a guy who can provide some leadership to our team,” Jacobson said.
“I like that lineup. It’s different.”
With just their second win the past six games, the new starting lineup combination may stick around as UNI gets deeper into the Missouri Valley Conference season.
“I’ve given it quite a bit of thought about leaving it the same,” Jacobson said. “We’ll see how it works out in practice today and decide for sure by tomorrow.”
“They earned some confidence coming out of that game on Saturday. They played hard and competitive. When you earn a victory like that, especially on the road, it’s going to impact your confidence in the right way.”