Northern Iowa Panthers

Northern Iowa guard Wes Washpun (11) shoots as Northern Iowa guard Matt Bohannon (5) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Terre Haute, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

POSTERIZED: Wes Washpun dunks on Evansville big man

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Northern Iowa’s pulled off some major upsets this season, beating both North Carolina and Iowa State, but they haven’t been able to maintain the level of consistency needed to threaten Wichita State in the Missouri Valley. Wednesday night the Panthers knocked off Evansville 57-54, with senior guard Wes Washpun being a key contributor in the win.

Washpun, who was a handful against both the Tar Heels and Cyclones, finished the game with a team-high 14 points and four assists. Two of those points came in impressive fashion, as he turned the corner on a ball screen and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk on Evansville big man Egidijus Mockevicius.

Yeah, Wes can get up.

Issues on both ends result in No. 1 North Carolina’s first loss

Roy Williams
AP Photo/Charlie Niebergall
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Come Monday we’ll have a new team atop the national polls, all because the shorthanded occupant of the top spot could not maintain a 16-point second half lead.

No. 1 North Carolina scheduled their game at Northern Iowa as a homecoming of sorts for senior point guard Marcus Paige, who is currently sidelined with a broken bone on his right hand. But what would have been a tricky matchup even with Paige on the floor turned into a nightmare of sorts as the second half wore on, with the Panthers outscoring UNC 31-11 over the final 17:40 to win by the final score of 71-67.

UNI certainly deserves credit for their play both offensively and defensively in making the comeback, but they had some help in the form of a visiting team that lost focus. After doing a good job of finding quality looks on offense, including scoring on their first four possessions of the second half, the Tar Heels hit s dry spell. The ball didn’t move as crisply as it did earlier in the game and the player movement wasn’t as sound either.

So even with Justin Jackson scoring 25 points in his best performance of the season to date, these issues were bound to catch up with North Carolina playing against a team as sound defensively as UNI. The three perimeter players who played so well in their first three victories, Joel Berry II, Nate Britt and Theo Pinson, all struggled Saturday afternoon. The trio accounted for 11 points (4-for-16 FG), nine assists and eight turnovers on the day.

That’s something North Carolina can make up for when Paige is in the lineup. But in this period where their best ball-handler and scorer is on the bench, the play of the guards who normally would be in supplementary roles becomes even more important.

The bigger concern coming out of the second half was North Carolina’s play defensively. The Tar Heels had no answer for guards Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun, who combined to score 26 of their 40 in the game’s final 20 minutes. Some of the responsibility for that can be placed on the guards, but there were also poor defensive rotations on ball screens that led to Washpun (five second-half assists) getting opportunities to either score himself or find open teammates (Bohannon hit three three-pointers).

Of UNI’s final 31 points Washpun had a hand in 25 of them, scoring ten and assisting on 15. That speaks to both the senior’s impact on the game and North Carolina’s inability to slow him down.

Ultimately it’s only November 21, so Roy Williams and his team have plenty of time to work out the kinks on both ends of the floor. It was known that the loss of an All-American has a noticeable impact on how a team performs, so UNC going through an adjustment period is of no surprise. But if the team needed a reminder that their margin for error shrinks significantly without Marcus Paige on the court, they received it in his home state.

Former Clemson point guard Rod Hall headed to Northern Iowa – to play football

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When the Clemson Tigers’ basketball season ended at the ACC tournament in March, so ended the college career of point guard Rod Hall. In four seasons at the school the 6-foot-1 Hall averaged 7.2 points and 3.0 assists per game, and being a good athlete has opened up other avenues for him. In April he worked out for some NFL teams, despite not playing football since high school, and Hall also entertained the idea of playing a season of college football.

According to the Greenville News Hall has decided to make the trek up to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he’ll join the Northern Iowa football program. In an interview with the paper, Hall noted that playing a season will help him reach his goal of getting a shot in the NFL.

“I’ll get a good bit of reps in school and get familiar with football all over again,” said Hall, who was courted by smaller nearby football programs before receiving a call two weeks ago from Northern Iowa assistant head coach Brandon Lynch, a fellow Augusta native.

Hall visited Northern Iowa on Wednesday. He was so enamored with the program he canceled any additional visits he had scheduled with other schools.

“I just know I have a good chance to get in and play as soon as I get there,” Hall said. “They are switching the offense to more of a no-huddle, and I know I can pick up on things easily.”

Hall, who went through wide receiver and defensive back drills during his workouts for NFL teams before suffering a hamstring injury, will play offense at UNI. Hall isn’t the first college basketball player to make the move to the gridiron after playing four seasons of hoops, with former Miami forward/tight end Jimmy Graham (now with the Seahawks) being a prominent example.

Given his success as a high school football player (he was all-state as a senior), it’ll be interesting to see if Hall can turn this season at Northern Iowa into a professional career.