CEDAR FALLS — Watch, and learn.

Because really, there wasn’t much Northern Iowa guard Wyatt Lohaus could do last season.

Lohaus’ season ended in mid-December because of an ankle injury.

Instead of playing, he was watching from the bench. And that’s something Lohaus found to be quite valuable.

“It gave me a different perspective watching the games,” said Lohaus, who was able to get a medical redshirt year out of last season. “Kind of like viewing it from the outside, rather than being in the middle of it. Seeing things, and picking up things during the game that I wouldn’t notice otherwise. Not having the pressure of this game, this game, this game, just sitting back and analyzing things, I think helped me mentally more than anything.

“That was the first time I had to sit out a year because of injury. I think I learned a lot from it, though. I think, overall, the takeaways are going to outweigh the negatives of it. So I’m pretty optimistic about it, and I feel confident coming off of it. I think it was a good learning experience and I feel more prepared for this season because of it.”

It was clear the Panthers missed him. Lohaus, a junior, had been a key part of UNI’s NCAA tournament runs in 2015 and 2016. The Panthers struggled to a 14-16 record last season, 9-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

What the Panthers were lacking without Lohaus was simple, coach Ben Jacobson said.

“You miss his enthusiasm, you miss how hard he plays,” Jacobson said. “Wyatt is one of those guys that he doesn’t mess around. Whether it’s in practice, if he’s in the gym by himself working out, on game night, there isn’t any part of him … for lack of a better term, he doesn’t mess around. He’s here to get a job done. You miss that with your team.”

Lohaus started UNI’s first four games last season — he played 41 minutes in an overtime win over Oklahoma — then missed the next four games with the ankle injury that he had suffered in the season opener against Coe. He played 24 minutes in a win over North Dakota on Dec. 10, then had a season-high 10 points in 20 minutes against Iowa in the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines.

But that would be it for Lohaus. The injury was too much, and the decision was made to sit and let the ankle heal.

That forced the Panthers, already playing with an inexperienced roster, to make changes.

Getting Lohaus back, along with the experience others gained last season, is important, Jacobson said.

“Last year, we had a number of first-year guys on our roster,” Jacobson said. “When Wyatt got hurt and you take him out of that, that forces a couple of those guys into more action. It’s great to have him back on the practice floor because, as I mentioned, how hard he plays. When he comes to work, he comes to work. That’s been really good for everybody.”

“Defensively, he’s sound,” forward Klint Carlson said. “Offensively, he can score the ball at a high rate. Last year, it would have helped to have him out there. This year, we’re going to turn to him more to score. He’s got a great pull-up (shot), he can get to the rim, he can shoot the three. He can do it all.

“At the same time, we know and trust that if he doesn’t have his shot, his shot isn’t going down, he’ll find us, the open guys, and we’ll knock it down for him.”

Lohaus said the pain is gone.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “For a while, it kind of seemed like the pain would never go away. Obviously, that’s a stretch in time and not the big picture. Now that it’s 100 percent and feeling good, I’m trying to put that behind me.”

“Yeah, I think he’s going to have a terrific year.,” Jacobson said. He doesn’t pass up any opportunity to get his work in, get better. He’s practiced well, so I expect he’ll have a big year.”

Lohaus can step forward now, without pain.

“I’m pretty happy with my game right now,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is just looking for different ways to score, not just shooting open shots. It’s creating my own shot, whether it’s moving without the ball, being more aggressive. Just using everything and trying to implement all of that.

“I think, for a time, I was rusty, not being at game speed for a while. That’s pretty much unavoidable. I knew that would be part of the process. I don’t think I’m behind at all. I think I have come out better than I would have had it not happened to me.”