CEDAR FALLS – Marc Sonnen walked into the media room dressed like the star. The senior made his way to table, that three chairs sat under, wearing a clean white t-shirt accented by stonewashed jeans.
Jake Koch followed Sonnen into the room still wearing his home white jersey and shorts. Combined with the attire, Koch acknowledged the type of treatment the Panther’s shooting guard should receive.
As Sonnen began to sit in the seat to the far left, Koch interrupted, “Man, you gotta sit in the middle.”
“That’s all you big dog,” Sonnen replied.
“You made seven 3s,” Koch said ending the discussion.
Sonnen eventually took his seat in the middle after a performance in which he was the center of attention. Sonnen paced a Panther shooting barrage that tied the program record and notched an 84-53 Northern Iowa win.
“It felt good today,” Sonnen said. “Warm ups it was feeling good, and all the little work you put in in the season and offseason, you know, that’s where it all pays off, all the shots you put up. When you’ve got it feeling good, just stay with it and keep shooting.”
Sonnen did just that and the ball kept falling through the net. He finished with a game-high 21. The totals tied his career high in 3s and points for the second time this season. His seven made long balls came on nine shots. At one point he was 7 of 8. Against George Mason, where Sonnen also drained seven 3s, he attempted 10 shots from beyond the arc.
“He’s worked really hard now for the better part of two years to get to the point of where he is,” Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson said. “He had the game at George Mason and he was going again tonight.”
The entire UNI team joined Sonnen in what looked like a 3-point contest. The team tied a McLeod Center record with 15 3-pointers. Nine of those came in the first half. The long range assault catapulted UNI to a 30 point lead with on minute remaining in the first half.
As The Panthers jogged to the locker room at halftime, six players made a 3-pointer. The same six players – Sonnen, Koch, Anthony James, Deon Mitchell, Seth Tuttle and Matt Bohannon – all finished in double figures. On the other side, Bradley only had five made field goals.
“If we were to answer what went wrong, we’d never get to leave,” Bradley head coach Geno Ford said. “What went right? I can answer that. Nothing.”
The Braves made a push to start the second half, slicing the UNI lead to 14 with 15:47 remaining. The Panthers answered like they had all night, with a 3. Koch nailed one of his two 3-pointers and the lead never sunk below 15 again.
Sonnen placed the exclamation point at the end of the Panthers’ response, sinking a 3 with 11:29 remaining that pushed the lead back to 20. It also sprung another run, this one a 22-5 run.
The bigger response came in the form of a conference win. The Panthers sat at 1-3 after Wednesday's game against Evansville slipped away.
“I think everyone was kind of pissed off,” Koch said. “This is not how you want to start conference season. Two tough home losses, we always like giving our fans a good show, but pretty much I think we were all pissed off and wanted to get back on the court.”
Sunday, the Panthers left little doubt a second Missouri Valley Conference win was on the horizon. Northern Iowa walked off winners not on the score board but in the box score. It held an advantage in every offensive statistical category, including shooting 57.7 percent from the field and from deep.
The Panthers also hauled in 37 rebounds compared to 19 for Brady. Eight of the 37 came on the offensive glass – a number that made Koch, who finished with 11 rebounds to go with his 11 points, proud.
After all, when Sonnen is putting on that type of clinic, it's easy to become to add one more to the 4,074 in attendance.
“I told him I was going to keep passing him the ball,” Koch said. “I want them all to go in. But as always, coaches can get mad if you don’t crash the offensive glass. So I had to keep crashing.”
NORTHERN IOWA 84, BRADLEY 53
Here's the "double-bonus," Gazette reporter Michael Bonner's quick reaction to UNI's dominating win over Bradley at the McLeod Center on Saturday afternoon:
Game Ball: Marc Sonnen. The UNI senior hit seven of his nine 3-point attempts (tied a career high for makes) and led the scorching-hot Panthers to a win. UNI shot 58 percent in the win and made 15 3-pointers, which ties a school record.
Lame Ball: Bradley’s first half (14 points on 5 of 22 shooting, 9 turnovers, 2 assists).
Light up the cigar: 10:11 second half. Sonnen drills his sixth 3-pointer of the night, pushes lead to 63-40
Watercooler stat: Bradley didn’t reach double figures until 5:42 left in the first half.
Big Number: 6 - The number of Panthers who made a 3-point field goal in the first half. Also the number of Panthers who finished in double figures.