"It's All About The Game"

Comeback wasn't enough






Ron Bailey, Publisher

Experience proves key for UNI.


December 9, 2015 - When Northern Iowa, defeaters of then number one North Carolina and on the second leg of a Virginia swing came into EagleBank Arena, the Panthers had a swag and confidence good, veteran ball clubs have. The Panthers (6-2) used every bit of their moxie to hold on to a 73-65 victory over George Mason, before 4,102 patrons.

UNI's Wes Washpun made key plans when it counted.

"I told our guys in the locker room we really fought, we really competed" afterward said Mason's head coach, Dave Paulsen. Of his young - three of his seven players who scored are freshman, two of them guards - squad, Paulsen noted "We got beat by a really solid, veteran team. We're not ready to win that game, yet. But we're not as far away as we were, a couple of weeks ago".

Down 18 with 7:20 in the first half, the Patriots chipped away their deficit to seven at the half. That effort continued in the second stanza - aided in part by unbalancing the floor and going two man game, thereby mitigating UNI's double team of bigs - with Paulsen's guys coming to within 53-52 with 5:46 in regulation.

What happened next? More or less experience: Guards Matt Bohannon (14 points), Wes Washpun (19 points, four assists) and forward Paul Jesperson (19 points, game high 12 rebounds), all seniors, hit a three ball, layup and three pointer, respectively, while Mason didn't score, pushing the Panther's lead to nine. The trio then hit 8-10 from the charity stripe, more or less sealing the game.

Though Mason bested UNI on the boards 49-32, including 23-8 on the offensive glass, a number of key, second half 50-50 balls were lost by the home team, case in point Jesperson's offensive rebound with 2:13 remaining, a carom that eventually led to his three pointer and that nine point UNI advantage.

"They're used to playing those games", said Paulsen in his presser, who after Jesperson's shot could be heard saying "Fight! Fight" on the court. "There's a sublet difference in getting those balls. Fatigue played a factor as well".

In sum Paulsen opined "We really made a run in the second half...they hit timely shots. They knocked down free throws".

Junior guard Marquise Moore finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Mason, now 4-6. Freshman guard Otis Livingstone scored 13 points, senior forward Marko Gujanicic logged 10 points and eight rebounds, while senior center Shevon Thompson led Mason with 10 rebounds, also scoring eight points.

Their team went 38.6% from the field, though Mason's effort from beyond the arc - 27.3% in the first, 15.4% during the second good for 20.8% overall - as well as their 46.2% at the charity stripe in part doomed them.

UNI went 42.1%, 38.5% overall and from beyond the arc, respectively. Next up for the Panthers is a trip to New Mexico, December 12th. Tip off is 8p CST.

Mason travels to in-state rival James Madison the same day for a 4p start.

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