CEDAR FALLS — It’s not as early in the season as head coach Ben Jacobson would have liked, but the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team seems to finally be hitting its stride.
UNI (10-9, 3-4) has won its last two home games by a combined 61 points and played well in a tight loss to then-12th ranked Creighton.
“With this team, their confidence is really starting to come along,” Jacobson said on Monday at his weekly news conference. “I think it’s grown quite a bit in the last 10 days to two weeks. Part of that has to do with winning a couple games, and the other part of it is just playing well. You can feel their confidence growing.”
“When you feel good about what you’re doing, and you’ve got confidence in what you’re doing, you have a better feel of where you’re supposed to be. When those things work for you, you play harder. I think that’s what’s happening with our team right now.”
One Panther in particular who has found his stride also has found himself in the record books. Senior Jake Koch had two steals in Sunday’s win over Drake, giving him 100 for his career. Koch is just the second player in Missouri Valley Conference history to have 500 points, 500 rebounds, 100 made 3-pointers, 100 assists and 100 steals.
“Jake has provided a lot of offense for us around the basket,” Jacobson said. “At Creighton he did a great job scoring on the block and getting to the free throw line. (Sunday) night, in the second half when we really stretched our lead, Jake was a big part of that.”
Koch is averaging a career-high 10.4 points per game, two more points per game than last season, while shooting less 3s. Last season, Koch finished with 113 3-point attempts. More than halfway through this season, he has attempted just 47.
“He worked more this summer on getting things done inside the 3-point line,” Jacobson said. “He’s shooting a lot of shots outside of practice, but he hasn’t felt right about his 3-point shot. I think he’s getting close to feeling good about it.
“I’d like to see him take a few more 3s, but he’s smart. He knows when he’s going to make one.”
The Panthers hope to keep their hot streak alive Wednesday when they host Southern Illinois (8-10, 1-6). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.