Northern Iowa will continue the rugged build-up to its Missouri Valley Conference schedule when it faces its second consecutive ranked opponent on the road Saturday against No. 16 St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y.
The schools will be meeting for the first time since January 1994, when the Bonnies (5-0) completed a two-year, home-and-home sweep of the Panthers (1-3) with a 74-70 win in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
After getting into the win column with a 95-58 shellacking of Dubuque last Sunday, Northern Iowa played competitively in its big step up in class last week at Arkansas, which coincidentally was ranked 16th at the time.
Trae Berhow led the way in the 93-80 loss to the Razorbacks with 23 points, with all but two of his points coming on 11 3-point tries.
The seven successful threes gave Berhow 174 in his four-year Northern Iowa career, allowing him to pass current Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse (172) for seventh on the school’s all-time list.
For his accomplishment both in the game and in the record book, Berhow was rewarded with MVC Player of the week honors.
Panthers coach Ben Jacobson enjoyed more than just Berhow’s performance at Arkansas. Coming off earlier home losses to Nicholls State and Vermont, Jacobson noted significant improvement against the Razorbacks.
“We had ourselves in position (to win),” he boasted. “I liked how aggressive we were. We had a few mistakes, but I am proud of how we played.”
The Panthers have had nine days off to prepare for St. Bonaventure, which will serve as Northern Iowa’s final opponent before the Missouri Valley opener at Bradley next Wednesday.
Northern Iowa has traveled to play ranked opponents on the eve of conference play each of the past two seasons as well, winning at 24th-ranked Colorado in December 2019, before losing at 19th-ranked Richmond last December.
The Panthers could have picked a softer spot this time around. St. Bonaventure advanced itself on the college basketball map with a three-game sweep of Boise State, Clemson and Marquette at the Charleston (S.C.) Classic last week.
The tournament provided a national platform for the Bonnies to showcase a battle-tested roster that features five returning senior starters.
Four of the five — Jaren Holmes (19 points, 13 rebounds), Osun Osunniyi (16 points, 11 rebounds), Jalen Adaway (14 points) and Kyle Lofton (12 points) — scored in double figures in the 70-54 triumph over Marquette in the championship game, while the fifth — Dominick Welch — chipped in with five points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“The five seniors just played exceptionally well,” coach Mark Schmidt said. “I can’t say enough. We really defended really, really well. We played hard as heck. We dominated from a defensive standpoint.”
The ranking is the Bonnies’ highest since they climbed to No. 10 in the nation in 1971, the year after Bob Lanier graduated.
–Field Level Media