Friday , Mar , 17 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Panthers and Hoyas meet in first round of NCAA Tournament

(Sports Network) – For the third straight year, the Northern Iowa Panthers
have made a lengthy regular season in the Missouri Valley Conference pay
off as they take on the Georgetown Hoyas in the 68th annual NCAA Tournament
from Dayton this afternoon. The 10th seed in the Minneapolis Region, UNI
earned a well-deserved at-large bid despite losing three of its last four
contests. After beating Missouri State in the MVC Tournament by a score of
57-42 two weeks ago, the squad was humbled by Southern Illinois in a 55-46
setback, marking the third time in the last four games that the Panthers had
scored less than 50 points. Overall the squad, which is in the NCAA
Tournament for the fourth time overall, finished with a record of 23-9.

As for the Hoyas, seeded seventh this time around, they were forced to
compete in an expanded and tougher Big East Conference this season. The
squad, which was ranked 23rd in the nation heading into this week,
defeated both Notre Dame and Marquette in the conference tournament in
the first two days before bowing to a miracle Syracuse squad by a
single point last Friday, 58-57. As a result, the Hoyas, who are 38-21 in 22
all-time appearances in this tournament and captured the 1984 title,
finished with a record of 21-9. Georgetown won the only other meeting
between these two programs back during the 1989-90 campaign with an 83-49
blowout in Las Vegas. Northern Iowa has played just three games against Big
East programs over the years, losing every time. The winner of this
contest will move on to the second round on Sunday to challenge the winner of
the Davidson/Ohio State bout.

When it came to offense, the Panthers were rather marginal this season,
posting just 66.1 ppg, but the scoring defense kept the squad moving in the
right direction by limiting opponents to only 57.9 ppg to rank second in the
MVC. UNI was second in the league in both shooting the ball from the floor
(.457) and holding opponents down (.402) at the same time. Perhaps most
surprising was that the Panthers placed last in the 10-team league in
offensive rebounds with a mere 8.4 per outing. At the end of January, UNI
earned a national ranking for the first time in school history, but then
promptly went out and fell to Creighton on the road by seven points, which
goes to show how unpredictable this group can be.

What makes the Panthers so dangerous is their familiarity with each other
as four players started every game in 2005-06, headed by Ben Jacobson with
14.2 ppg and 3.8 apg. Grant Stout provided the toughness in the middle with
12.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 77 of the unit’s 121 blocked shots. Eric Coleman
accounted for 11.7 ppg and, while playing near the rim and clearing 7.1 rpg,
shot almost as well from the floor (.573) as he did at the charity stripe

Like the Panthers, Georgetown was not known for having a huge scoring punch,
placing 13th in the 16-team Big East with just 66.7 ppg. But again, similar to
UNI, the Hoyas had a tenacious defense that simply would not quit, leading the
conference by giving up only 59.5 ppg. Ironically, even though the program
wasn’t big on scoring, it still ranked first in the Big East by knocking down
47.2 percent from the floor. Conversely, Georgetown was 13th in the league in
defending opponents and their field goal attempts, allowing 42.2 percent of
those chances to drop through. Although second-to-last in the conference in
rebounding with 32.6 rpg, the Hoyas were first overall by holding foes to just
28.9 rpg.

The squad didn’t have a single dominant man in the middle like so many of
the other schools in the conference, but with Jeff Green (11.9 ppg), Brandon
Bowman (11.5 ppg) and Roy Hibbert (11.2 ppg) combining for more than 18 rpg,
they still knew how to make their presence felt in the paint. Ashanti Cook
(9.8 ppg) was a 43 percent shooter from three-point range and Jonathan
Wallace (8.4 ppg) is another sharpshooter beyond the arc at 42.7 percent. All
five of the aforementioned players started each and every game for the Hoyas.