UNI picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley

UNI+senior+guard+Karli+Rucker+was+picked+forth+MVC%27s+preseason+all-conference+team%2C+announced+on+Tuesday.+She+was+the+Panther%27s+leading+scorer+from+a+year+ago.+

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UNI senior guard Karli Rucker was picked forth MVC’s preseason all-conference team, announced on Tuesday. She was the Panther’s leading scorer from a year ago.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

he Missouri Valley Conference released their 2020-21 preseason women’s basketball poll on Tuesday, with the UNI Panthers picked to finish third in the conference. Along with team rankings, the conference also released their preseason all-MVC teams, with UNI’s Karli Rucker selected for the five-player slate. The Panthers are returning a strong cast of players along with head coach Tanya Warren, who will be coaching in her 14th season at the helm.

The MVC preseason team rankings had Missouri State picked first in the conference with 33 first-place votes, followed by Bradley in second with seven first-place votes and UNI in third. Drake, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Valparaiso, Loyola, Indiana State and Evansville rounded out the conference rankings in respective order. The Panthers finished the regular season last year in fifth place with a conference record of 10-8. Missouri State took the regular-season conference title with a 16-2 record in league play, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the MVC’s Hoops in the Heartland conference tournament to be cancelled, along with the NCAA women’s basketball tournament as a whole.

The Panther women will be coming off of a solid 2019-20 campaign which saw them go 18-11 overall with a 10-8 conference record. Northern Iowa beat Iowa, Iowa State and Drake all in one season for the first time ever in program history, and defeated three Power 5 schools also for the first time in history (these wins came against Iowa, Iowa State and Missouri). They will be returning with their top-five scorers from a year ago along with four starters.

Rucker finished last season as UNI’s leading scorer at 13.9 points per game. She also led the team with 3.7 assist per game to go along with her team-leading average of 30 minutes played per game. She has earned all conference honors in each of her last two seasons and looks to claim the title again for her senior season.

Head coach Tanya Warren will be returning at the helm of the Panthers for her 14th season. She is the winningest coach in program history with a record of 243-177 and has led the Panthers to a .500 or better record in each of the last 12 seasons as head coach. She looks to lead this year’s strong Panther squad to compete amongst the top of the Missouri Valley Conference in 2020-21.