CEDAR FALLS — When Northern Iowa forward Nate Buss found out he was starting on Thursday, he kept quiet.
Buss, who told only his fiancee the news, let everyone know with his play on Saturday.
The junior scored a career-high 26 points, hitting 10 of 13 field goals in his first career start, to lead the Panthers past Missouri State, 94-89, Saturday at the McLeod Center.
“Starting in any basketball game for any basketball player is a big deal,” Buss said. “On this team it’s a little different. Starting doesn’t always mean a lot because coach is always going to have the players in the game who are playing the best.”
After leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, UNI held a six-point lead midway through the second when Buss picked up his fourth foul and was sent to the bench, opening the door for MSU to cut into the Panther lead.
The Bears did just that, taking their first lead of the game, 61-59, with just over nine minutes left to play.
“There’s a positive to it that we’re playing well enough that we can get a double-figure lead,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. “We’ve still got some work to do during key stretches of a game.”
The Panthers experienced a similar stretch during their game against Southern Illinois on Tuesday when they blew a double-digit lead in the last four minutes of the game.
“Like anything else, I can stand up there and say forget about it, but they really have to move past it,” Jacobson said. “They did a great job of that. We had really good practices Thursday and Friday this week.”
MSU’s lead lasted just 30 seconds. A 3-pointer by Max Martino gave UNI a lead wouldn’t let go of the rest of the game.
Both teams shot over 59 percent from the field and over 57 percent from beyond the arc.“If you would’ve told me we were going to score 89 points and shoot the percentages we shot, I would’ve told you we were going to win the game,” MSU Coach Paul Lusk said. “Neither team could guard, I’m sure (Jacobson) feels the same way, and credit goes to UNI.”