Ben Jacobson

Offensive struggles not the only reason why Northern Iowa’s in an 0-2 hole

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With four starters returning from last season’s 20-win squad much was expected of Ben Jacobson’s Northern Iowa Panthers, as they were picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference.

But it’s been tough sledding for UNI on the offensive end of the floor through 14 games, resulting in a 7-7 overall record and an 0-2 mark in MVC play following their 65-61 loss to Indiana State on Wednesday night.

Seth Tuttle led the way for the Panthers with 24 points but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing for the fourth time in the last five games. Wednesday’s defeat came on the heels of a 66-41 loss at Wichita State in which no Panther reached double figures.

The question: is UNI capable of of getting back into the Valley race?

The depth that was cited as a reason why UNI would contend (and be able to play faster in doing) so hasn’t been as productive as anticipated, as they’ve tallied less than one point per possession in six of their 14 games. Overall UNI is shooting 43.7% from the field, a number that ranks 8th in the conference and that’s with five players averaging at least 8.8 points per game.

Anthony James (36.9% FG), Jake Koch (38.5) and Marc Sonnen (41.7) are three of UNI’s top four players in field goal attempts, and those low percentages come as a result of the caliber of shot that the Panthers are finding.

UNI has done a good job of keeping opponents off the offensive glass but they haven’t been able to make teams pay on the other end, as they rank dead last in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage (23.9%). Struggling as they have when it comes to shooting, those extra possessions would come in handy if the Panthers were able to get them.

Their play on the offensive end isn’t the only reason why Northern Iowa has struggled of late, as they currently rank 9th in the Valley in three-point percentage defense and 8th in rebounding margin.

While UNI has a few areas to address the best path to doing so may be a return to the basics, almost taking on a “less is more” approach. Given their shooting and the fact that they have what amounts to a seven-man rotation, a renewed focus on the fundamentals is something Northern Iowa hopes will pay off as the season wears on.

“When I talk about getting a little simpler with what we’re doing, that’s going to help this team,” Jacobson said following last night’s loss, according to Carson Tigges of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

“To get a little better understanding of what we’re trying to get will help them in terms of their confidence, so we have to keep working at that.”

Northern Iowa has consistently been a tough out during Jacobson’s tenure, which includes two NCAA tournament appearances and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2010. So while the road ahead looks to be a tough one, it wouldn’t be wise to rule Northern Iowa out just yet.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.