UNI Fight (Part II): Northern Iowa Panthers’ defense shuts down Wichita State backcourt to move to 2016 MVC Championship


By Peyton Wesner

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A month to the date, the Northern Iowa Panthers walked into Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas, for a battle with the Wichita State Shockers. What resulted on that day, shook up the Missouri Valley Conference as Ben Jacobson’s defense and huge performances from Wyatt Lohaus and Klint Carlson led UNI to a 53-50 upset victory.

On Saturday afternoon, they didn’t just turn “The Valley” upside down, but the whole college basketball world!

Replicating a defensive effort on Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet that mirrored the latest matchup and receiving a monster offensive performance from Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa bounced back from a slow offensive start on the way to a 57-52 overtime triumph.

Both offenses, not just UNI, having very little success in putting “the biscuit in the basket,” the two MVC squads combined to net just 1-of-6 field goal attempts after two minutes of game action (2-0 WICH).

However, soon the Shockers’ offense slowly but surely found its rhythm with Anton Grady. The Cleveland State transfer seemed to be the only player on the floor that was ready at 3:40 PM EST for a basketball game! The 6’8″ senior progressed what would be a, grueling for Northern Iowa, 10-0 Wichita State domination.

In fact, the Panthers didn’t score a basket until moments before the second media timeout as Wes Washpun nailed a triple for their tenth attempt (10-3 WICH). Nonetheless, momentum didn’t stay with UNI considering Jeremy Morgan was whistled for a shooting foul on a box out of Markis McDuffie.

And that wasn’t even the worst part!

Wichita State’s “fab freshman” was beyond the arc, and he went on to swish all three of the ensuing charity stripe attempts (13-3 WICH).

McDuffie continued to make his presence felt early on, for the next possession brought a made jumper from the former ESPN Top 100 high school prospect (15-6 WICH).

Minutes later, a very good sign transpired for the Shockers as Ron Baker canned back-to-back jumpers for his fourth and sixth points of the contest (21-10 WICH). This one had the feeling of a Wichita State rout.

Yet, the Shockers could pull away no further than 11! Moreover, Wes Washpun produced five consecutive UNI points to dwindle the deficit to six (23-17 WICH).

Nonetheless, the Panthers pulled no closer before halftime as Wichita State’s Grady had four more of his half-high eight points to fight off the attacking opponent (29-23 WICH). For now.

Scoring still at a premium, the Shockers and Panthers continued to emphasize defense in the second half. Though, UNI’s was just a little better in the aforementioned department as they ran within two on a Jeremy Morgan fastbreak layup (off a defensive rebound). 34-32 Wichita State!

Despite Fred VanVleet making a three-pointer to re-up the Shockers’ edge to 5 with 8:03 remaining, UNI sixth man Klint Carlson had five straight points, the last basket a triple at the top of the key that he banked in, to tie the game for the first time.

Wichita State and Northern Iowa, from the 41 all tie, went back and forth while trading layups and free throws heading under the two minute mark (47-47)

Following one empty possession per squad, Ron Baker fired a jumper with the intent to seize the lead. Off the mark! But, Matt Bohannon fouled Zach Brown while the rebound was coming down. The Shockers had a golden opportunity to obtain free points.

Brown, a 70.8% free throw shooter, was 2-for-2 leading up to his attempt. Clank! He back rimmed it! Carlson came down with the rebound and the action was heading the other way.

All of the 14,299 fans in attendance were on their feet as Wes Washpun had the ball at the top of the key. Though, it was not him but Jeremy Morgan who caught the ball from the right wing, took a dribble, and let go a wide open look from beyond the arc.   Off to the left! The Shockers would have one more chance.

VanVleet had the ball at the top of the key and started his drive to the basket with about seven seconds remaining on the shot clock (11 overall). He went to his right, hung in the air, and floated his shot towards the basket. Washpun jumped high into the air to block the attempt, but was unable. Boink! The Panthers’ Carlson smothered his eighth rebound and we were heading to overtime.

Even though the Wichita State Shockers’ won the tip-off in the extra session, UNI struck first as Carlson posted up and made a layup (49-47 UNI). Though, no stranger to making big shots in St. Louis, Conner Frankamp stole thr lead for the Shockers with a triple (50-49 WICH).

Ensuing a swaping of deuces, Jeremy Morgan drew the fifth foul on Anton Grady, who had a team-high 14 points for Wichita State. “J-Mo,” who had clutch free throws the day before versus SIU, would only make one of the two; however, the most important fact was the score was tied at 52.

Then, the most “shocking” sequrnce of events transpired. VanVleet turned the ball over, and Morgan redeemed himself with a three-pointer from the same spot he missed in regulation. 55-52 UNI!

Gregg Marshall, panicked and fearing defeat, burned a timeout to draw up the “perfect” play. BUT VANVLEET COMMITTED ANOTHER TURNOVER!

Then, it was dagger time. Washpun had the ball, like he should, and drove towards the rim, but instead of going all the way to the rack, he pulled up for a jumper.

Cash money! 57-52 Panthers! Northern Iowa would have a chance to defend their conference tournament title!

The Human Highlight Reel Out-Perfoming Mr. Two-Time Player of the Year

Receiving Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday, Fred VanVleet said, “I would trade it in for a championship on Sunday any day.

Guess the Missouri Valley Conference did not permit the swap.

Struggling just as, if not worse, than the past meeting at “The Roundhouse,” VanVleet was contained to eight points on 2-of-o shooting. What happened?

Wes Washpun happened!

Washpun, arguably the most athletic player in the “The Valley,” was dynamic in his defense of the player that is known as the best point guard in the conference for he left no room for FVV to operate. Take the final play of regulation for instance! VanVleet would have gotten past 90% of opposing guards in the conference with his attack. However, with the speed and jumping ability the UNI star possesses, no room was present and the shot was missed. Yet, Washpun didn’t just dominate on defense, but on offense as well!

As the only Panther to have more than 4 points at halftime, the former Tennessee Volunteer continued to rise to the occasion in route to his fifth twenty plus point game of his senior campaign. In fact, he was the only man wearing purple and yellow to be in double-figures!

Also having good performances for the Northern Iowa Panthers included Matt Bohannon, who had nine points, five rebounds, and two steals, as well as Klint Carlson, who finished one point and one rebound shy of a double-double (9 points/9 rebounds). For Wichita State, Ron Baker had 12 points an 9 rebounds on a horrific 5-of-18 shooting night and Anton Grady had 14 points and 6 rebounds.

At-Large Bid?

“For me, I feel like we’re in the (NCAA) tournament. I’m not on the inside, so I don’t know what they’re talking about, discussing, but for us, we can just move on from this game, look at film, work on shooting the basketball, work on our craft, try and do things a little bit better to get out team ready for postseason play.”

—Wichita State’s Ron Baker on whether or not he feels they will be “dancing” in a week and a half.

When Wichita State went south to beautiful Orlando, Florida, so did their ability to win games. Fred VanVleet was out of action following a loss to Tulsa, and the results that transpired at ESPN’s Wide World of Sportswere the same as USC, Alabama, and Iowa left the matchups happy.

Nonetheless, the Shockers did later pick up resume victories over UNLV and Utah.

But, then they lost to Seton Hall on the road.

Yet, let’s face it. I am no expert. However, I do firmly believe the Shockers are an NCAA Tournament team.

Their body of work is outstanding. Their bench depth? One of the best  in the country! Their dynamic duo?  Well, Baker and VanVleet could easily could some stress to a power conference school with the desire to make a long tournament run. And wouldn’t be pretty odd not to see the notorious in the field of 68?

He Said It (Part I)

I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can for my team, is really what it comes down to. I just tried to make the play, Coach puts the ball in my hands, and tells me to go out there and make a play, and that’s all I try to do out there.

—Wes Washpun on how he rises to the occasion.

He Said It (Part II)

The whole game, the guys and Coach were telling me, you jnow, the next one is going to go in. Just keep shooting it, stay confident. And I took a look at the shot clock there and it was getting down there. So when Wyatt passed it to me, I knew I had to shoot it, so I just let it go with confidence, and it went in.

—Jeremy Morgan on his redemption triple in overtime.

He Said It (Part III)

They play the gaps and they’re not out denying much, they just clog the paint and make it hard for you to drive, make it hard to cut things like that. I mean, they pretty much give you open jumpers, and if you make them, it kind of spreads them out a little bit more. If you don’t, like I said, it gets tighter and tighter and tighter. But at the end of the day, 2-for-24 is not going to get it done, and 3-for-14 for a startinf point guard is not going to get it done in two days here in St. Louis.

—Fred VanVleet on what UNI does to keep him and Ron Baker off-balanced and shooting poorly.

He Said It (Part IV)

The way the bracket broke this year, there was no advantage to being the 1 seed. I mean, Loyola was about as good an 8 seed as you are going to see. Loyola beat UNI twice. They were predicted to be 4th or 5th in the preseason poll. They just struggled early. Porter (Moser) did a great job of righting his ship, switched his lineup. That was a tough 8 seed.

Then, you get UNI, the hottest team in the second half in the league, in the semis. Just the way the bracket broke; there was no easy game.”

—Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall on whether he was surprised his squad didn’t play better in St. Louis.

The 21-12 (13-7) Northern Iowa Panthers will take on the winner of the second semi-final between Evansville and Indiana State in the 2016 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship at 2 PM EST.

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