Tough way for Wyoming’s season to end with a 71-54 setback to Northern Iowa in the second round of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament Friday at Key Arena in Seattle.
The No. 12 seed Cowboys (25-10) led for a total of 1 minute, 2 seconds of the game, which was early in the first half.
Here are my three takes from the game:
1. Too many shooters: Northern Iowa shot 46 percent from the field, but was 9 of 18 from 3-point range. Five different players made at least one 3-pointer, and five players also scored in double-digits. The Panthers just kept running shooters out on the court. Ten players got into the game, only one played 30-plus minutes and eight logged between 16 and 28 minutes.
2. Too many lulls: UW gave up runs of 10-0 in the first half and 13-3 to start the second half. Against a team like Northern Iowa, which is now 31-3 and 11th-ranked in the nation, that is too much to overcome. The Panthers also did a good job of doing what UW takes pride in doing — playing good defense. They took junior guard Josh Adams out of the game as he was just 2 of 9 from the field and had four points. They also did a good job of taking senior forward Larry Nance Jr. out of the game until the second half. Nance sparked a 14-0 UW run with 10 straight points during that spurt. But Northern Iowa did a good job of doubling Nance with two guys about 6-foot-8 to 6-9.
3. Tournament savvy: Northern Iowa may be considered a mid-major program by most of the so-called experts around the country, but it looked like every bit of like a one of the big boys of college basketball with the way it played against UW. The Panthers can play nine guys who all can do good things. They have size, good guard play and a lot of shooters. And, the team is in the top five nationally in scoring defense at 54 points per game. Northern Iowa was happy it won the game, but it wasn’t like they did cartwheels, either. This team feels like it belongs in the NCAA Tournament (a No. 5 seed solidifies that) but it also feels like it can make a deep run in the tournament. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.
A few other notes and observations from the game:
–“We came out of the timeout at one point when it was close and said we’re going to remain calm and let’s just do what we’ve done all year, and that’s get stops, make open shots, play through Seth (senior forward Seth Tuttle). I thought we did a great job of that late. That’s why we were able to come out of here with a win.” — Northern Iowa junior guard Paul Jesperson on the mnidset of the Panthers after UW cut a 21-point lead to seven midway through the second half.
–“I’m just so thankful to get this opportunity. I’ve never in my life been around a group like this, a group that genuinely loves each other. I’m so thankful. I wish I had more to give the university. I’m just very thankful right now.” — UW senior guard Charles Hankerson.
–Hankerson is a big reason UW wasn’t blown out of the water in this game, especially in the first half. He made four 3-pointers in the first and half and five in the game. His previous career-high in a game was three.
–One of the people who traveled with the team to Seattle this week was Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. He was at the team’s open practice Thursday and at the game Friday. Here’s what he tweeted after the game:
So proud of @wyo_mbb and their Cowboy tough attitude all year long. Congrats on a great season! Go Pokes!
— Governor Matt Mead (@GovMattMead) March 20, 2015
–The UW fans were great here in Seattle. The one part of the arena where all Cowboys fans got to sit was packed, and there were a lot of fans scattered throughout the arena. Between the MW Tournament last week in Las Vegas and here in Seattle, the fans showed up. Hats off you all of you who made it to both venues or even to just one.
–Northern Iowa plays No. 4 seed Louisville Sunday. Louisville escaped with a win over No. 13 seed UC-Irvine. I like Northern Iowa in that game, although my bracket wouldn’t like it. What do you think?
–And, what do you think about this season of UW basketball and the future of the team next season? I think it is safe to say it will be somewhat of a transition season in 2015-16, but I don’t think you can count the Cowboys out of anything, either. But what do you think, give me your thoughts and opinions.
I also want to thank each and everyone of you who have read this blog and our other coverage this basketball season in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and on wyosports.net.