On the way to the arena, I kept asking myself, "If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, does it make a sound?" Over and over the question bounced around in my head. Not because I wanted or was interested in some sort of philosophical discussion or anything of that matter, but that I knew UNI had dismissed for Thanksgiving Break this week. Would there be anyone at the arena, or would it be empty?
When I arrived, it was fairly empty. Season ticket holders showed up for the most part, but the student section was nearly vacant. I counted around 25 people in one section, and more wood than students. Overall the environment was one of peacefulness, something you wouldn't expect at a game. Conversations between friends scattered across the arena layered under the public address announcer proclaiming that tickets were still available for the upcoming football game.
UNI entered the game after a close win over Northern Colorado. I was optimistic about an easier win over Western Carolina. In typical Panther fashion the game started out slow, both teams struggling to put together any type of offense.
"They are playing some good defense out there tonight." I noted to my dad, who had bought the adjacent season ticket.
"Yeah, a lot better than Sunday." This continued until the spark finally fuel the explosion to set the Panthers off. After a steal on the defensive end, the ball was rushed into the waiting hands of a waiting Seth Tuttle, slammed it home and sent the relatively small crowd into a frenzy. UNI proceeded to scorch the Catamount defense with backdoor cuts throughout the first half, building a lead that would not be challenged.
Unwilling to quit, Western Carolina mounted a small rally to close the halftime deficit to 12 at the half, but UNI came back with a defensive performance that I haven't seen in years. On the backs of the stellar defense, UNI ballooned its lead up to 30 in the second half, holding the Western Carolina to only 39 points for the game.
A tree did fall in the forest tonight, and while there weren't many people to hear it, it defiantly made a sound. I left the arena hopeful for the upcoming stretch of games. In every way, UNI looked as good as they had all year, and didn't suffer from the scoring droughts that have plagued them over the last few seasons and players like Seth Tuttle came up big to carry the load.
I left the arena not asking any deep or tough questions, the only question that was still unanswered was how far this group is going to go.
at NORTHERN IOWA 59, WESTERN CAROLINA 39 11/22/2011
WESTERN CAROLINA 2-3 (0-0) -- T. Sumler 3-11 2-2 10; H. Mutombo 8-15 5-6 21; B. Boggs 2-9 1-2 5; K. Cole 0-3 0-0 0; T. King 0-4 0-0 0; P. Ross 0-1 1-2 1; K. Hall 1-1 0-0 2; T. Tankelewicz 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 14-47 9-12 39. NORTHERN IOWA 3-1 (0-0) -- J. Moran 2-6 0-0 6; J. Koch 3-4 2-2 9; A. James 3-8 0-0 6; D. Mitchell 2-4 2-2 6; M. Sonnen 2-5 2-4 8; S. Tuttle 7-9 0-0 14; M. Martino 0-2 0-0 0; C. Rank 2-3 0-0 4; M. Singleton 1-1 1-2 3; M. Morrison 0-2 0-0 0; T. Lange 1-2 1-1 3; A. Pehl 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 8-11 59.
Three-point goals: WCU 2-17 (K. Cole 0-3; H. Mutombo 0-3; T. Tankelewicz 0-3; T. Sumler 2-5; B. Boggs 0-2; P. Ross 0-1), UNI 5-17 (A. James 0-2; J. Koch 1-2; J. Moran 2-5; M. Morrison 0-2; M. Sonnen 2-3; M. Martino 0-1; C. Rank 0-1; D. Mitchell 0-1); Rebounds: WCU 24 (P. Ross 7), UNI 31 (J. Koch 9); Assists: WCU 4 (P. Ross 2), UNI 12 (J. Koch 3); Total Fouls -- WCU 13, UNI 15; Fouled Out: WCU-None; UNI-None.