CEDAR FALLS — With 16 games under its belt, Northern Iowa’s men’s basketball team is starting to hit its stride.
The Panthers are 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and have won their three league games by an average of 23.7 points.
“We’re getting there,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said about his team finding its identity. “You never know when you’re going to get all the way there, but that’s the way it is with every team.
“These guys enjoy being around each other every day. We see it in practice, on the plane and in games.”
After struggling to start the season, former Cedar Rapids Washington prep Wes Washpun has gained momentum to start conference play, averaging 12.5 points since the start of the new year.
“(Washpun) has played some games now and had a chance to play,” Jacobson said. “Now he’s able to play without thinking quite as much about where he’s supposed to be or trying to remember a certain play. He’s gaining some game experience and it’s fun to see the progress he’s making.”
Jacobson thinks junior Deon Mitchell has been a big help to Washpun. Mitchell, who was asked to be the team’s leader at the beginning of the season, has found chemistry with Washpun on and off the court.
“Those two guys have a great relationship,” Jacobson said. “During the Iona game, that game was really close, and those two are talking and laughing,
“Wes wears his emotions on his sleeve and I think that’s helped Deon and brought out some of Deon’s personality. It’s that experience that has helped Wes get better faster.”