Panthers split with Loyola in weekend series

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Toni Fortmann

UNI’s Karli Rucker drives in against Loyola’s Ellie Rice in the second game of the team’s weekend series. The Panthers dropped the second game in overtime.

DAVID WARRINGTON

This past weekend, the UNI Panthers women’s basketball team hosted the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers for a Missouri Valley Conference two-game series at the McLeod Center, playing on Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20. The two games had very different outcomes, as the Panthers secured a blow out win on Friday, while losing a heartbreaker in overtime on Saturday.

In the first game of the series, the Panthers had as good of a start as you can ask for, with junior guard Kam Finley knocking down a three-pointer on UNI’s first possession, just 25 seconds into the game. After a few minutes of back-and-forth play, UNI caught fire, going on a 15-4 run to finish the opening quarter with a 25-12 advantage. After a second quarter in which the Ramblers outscored the Panthers by two points, the two teams went into the break with UNI leading, 39-28.

The Ramblers looked determined coming into the third quarter, immediately going on a 9-2 run, getting them within two points. However, Nicole Kroeger would step up and hit a timely three-pointer to return the momentum to the Panthers. UNI entered the fourth quarter with a 54-44 advantage. In the final frame, the Panthers dominated throughout, outscoring the Ramblers 24-7 in the period. After this lopsided fourth quarter, the Panthers walked away with an impressive 27-point victory, 78-51.

Three Panthers scored in double figures. Cynthia Wolf was the leading scorer, finishing with 13 points to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds. Kam Finley and Nicole Kroeger both finished with 11 points. Karli Rucker had a team-high seven assists, as well as six points.

The second game of the series started out much like the second and third quarters of the previous day’s game, with both teams going back-and-forth without too much separation. After one quarter of play, the Ramblers led 11-9. Loyola went on an 11-0 run to end the second quarter, taking a 27-16 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Panthers fought hard to get back into the game. UNI scored five points in the final 20 seconds of the quarter, and this burst of offense got the Panthers within six going into the final quarter, trailing 41-35. With just four seconds remaining in the game and trailing by two, Emerson Green knocked down a jumper in the paint, tying the game at 55-55 and sending it to overtime. In the overtime session, the Panthers had a chance to force double overtime. Unfortunately, Karli Rucker’s shot was off the mark, and the Ramblers came out on top, 66-64.

Four Panthers scored in double figures in this game, with Karli Rucker and Emerson Green both finishing with 13. Rucker also added a team-high nine assists. Megan Maahs poured in 12 points, while Nicole Kroeger added in 10 points as well as five rebounds.

After splitting the series with Loyola, the Panther move to 10-10 on the year, with a 7-6 record in MVC play. They will stay at home for their next three games, hosting the Drake Bulldogs on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and hosting the Evansville Purple Aces on Saturday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, Feb. 28.