If there was a conference award for most underappreciated player, Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said it probably would go to Panthers forward Jake Koch.
The 6-foot-9 senior doesn't always put up jaw-dropping numbers, but he can stuff a box score as well as anyone in the Missouri Valley Conference. Koch ranks among the league leaders in rebounding, free-throw percentage and blocked shots.
He leads Northern Iowa in steals and is third in assists. He can score inside and out, and he gets to the foul line more than any of his teammates.
“He's a guy that most of what he does flies under the radar,” Jacobson said. “But at the end of the game, his name shows up in five or six different categories.
“And he does it every night. Because he doesn't get 20 points very often — he averages right around 10 — I think what he does sometimes gets lost. He's been very consistent for us, and he's playing his best right now.”
Jacobson would get no argument on the latter proclamation from Creighton fans. Koch single-handedly fueled the Panthers' rally in the last five minutes of a 61-54 win Feb. 13 against the Bluejays, scoring 13 of his team's final 16 points.
He also chipped in a couple of key rebounds and made two game-turning defensive plays in the final minutes.
A three-year starter for Northern Iowa, Koch was the Valley's only player to have 30-plus 3-pointers, offensive rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season. As a sophomore, he became the first Panther in the program's Division I era to record 30-plus steals, assists and blocks.
“He's been much more consistent for us the entire year,” Jacobson said. “And as of late, he's scoring more, he's a little more active in terms of rebounding and defensively.”
Players of week
Overall: Creighton forward Doug McDermott. The junior from Ames, Iowa, became the 15th player in Valley history to score 2,000 points Saturday against Evansville. McDermott averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists as the Bluejays split a pair of games.
Newcomer: Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead. The senior from Florence, Ala., averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot 54 percent from 3-point range in leading the Shockers to two wins.
Quote of the week
Creighton coach Greg McDermott, on whether any of his players had ever been issued a flagrant foul while jumping for a rebound and kicking an opponent in the chest: “We don't have anyone that can jump that high, so we're safe on that one.”
Bits and pieces
>> Creighton junior Ethan Wragge is one of four players since 1996-97 who has made 200 or more 3-pointers while starting 10 or fewer games. Wragge has 208 3-pointers, with his only seven starts coming at the end of his freshman season.
>> Indiana State needs one more victory to reach 17 wins for the fourth straight season. The last time the Sycamores had four straight 17-win seasons was from 1960-64.
>> Defense has fueled Northern Iowa's 8-2 surge as the Panthers have held their opponents to an average of 53.9 points during that stretch.
>> Bradley's Walt Lemon Jr. became the 46th player in program history to score 1,000 points. He now has 1,009 in three seasons.
>> Evansville's Colt Ryan has played 4,061 minutes in his career, 10th in league history. Bradley's Hersey Hawkins holds the Valley record with 4,731 minutes.
— Steven Pivovar