If desperation can be felt in the second game of the season then it was likely present in Cedar Falls for a 7 a.m. local tip between Northern Iowa and Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks were coming off a 97-55 beat down at #22 Baylor on opening night and the Panthers needed to kick things in gear after losing at home to Colorado State 83-78 Saturday and with #1 North Carolina on their way to McLeod Center on Saturday.
Tuesday mornings game turned into an uphill battle for Brad Underwood's squad and a great one on one match up for mid-major fans to watch between Thomas Walkup and Wes Washpun. The game overall though was a suffocating effort from Northern Iowa and when Washpun slid in for a layup 25 seconds into the game to go up 2-0 the Panthers would never let up the lead.
Despite a heavy focus from the Panthers defense Thomas Walkup once again proved he is one of the nation's top mid-major players. With unmatched effort and a drive to get his team back in the game, Walkup posted 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Lumberjacks 70-60 loss.
SFA's biggest problem is that Walkup just didn't get any help. No one else finished in double-figures for the Lumberjacks and as a team they shot 36% from the field and just 29% from three. Ty Charles was particularly cold in a 2-for-11 performance from the field.
Balance was the key for Northern Iowa with four of their five starters finishing in double-figures. Washpun finished the game with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Washpun had five straight points with about three and half minutes left in the game that really acted as a nail in the coffin for the Lumberjacks.
Despite today's win Northern Iowa will need to solve their 17 turnovers against SFA before UNC comes to town. The Panthers will also need to demonstrate a little more depth as we move throughout the season. Today the Northern Iowa bench only provided 8 points of production. It won't get easier after UNC with Richmond, New Mexico, and Iowa State still on the schedule for Ben Jacobsen.
Stephen F. Austin should have their first win in the bag this weekend against non-Division I LSU Shreveport. That game will serve as a tune up before the Lumberjacks head to the American Sports Network Challenge in Nashville next week.