Panthers blow out Aces, Maahs honored on Senior Day

UNI’s Megan Maahs was honored last Sunday for Senior Day following the Panther’s 96-48 victory over Evansville.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

The UNI women’s basketball team looked to return to the win column last weekend when they hosted Evansville for a two game, Saturday-Sunday matchup for their final two home games of the season. Redshirt senior Megan Maahs was honored for her senior day following Sunday’s game, as she had confirmed that she will not return for another season (the NCAA is allowing all players one extra year of playing eligibility due to COVID-19). Facing an undermanned Evansville squad, the Panthers easily won both games against the last-place Purple Aces.

The Panther women cruised through game one, winning by the score of 67-31. They held Evansville to zero points in the first quarter, which was the first time in school history that UNI has shut out an opponent in a single quarter. UNI also set a school record with 16 made three-pointers in the game en route to the easy victory.

The Aces only had nine players make the trip to Cedar Falls due to COVID-19 complications and injuries on the team. Evansville did not score until the 8:36 mark of the second quarter, when Rylie Stephens made two free throws to get the Aces on the board. UNI was simply able to wear down their opponents, as fatigue set in throughout the game for Evansville due to lack of substitute players.

Karli Rucker led the Panthers in scoring with 19 points and five made three-pointers. She also led the team with seven assists for the game. Kayba Laube and Kam Finley each had nine points for UNI. Cynthia Wolf and Bre Gunnels both had 11 rebounds for the Panthers, along with two blocked shots for Gunnels. Rylie Stephens was the leading scorer for Evansville with seven points in the game.

UNI only shot 31.5% from the field in the game but had 29 bench points and 26 second-chance points in the game. Evansville also committed 22 turnovers to UNI’s 11, with the Panthers taking advantage of the Aces’s giveaways.

UNI cruised to victory again in game two, winning by the final of 96-48. They set another school record for three-pointers made in a game with 21, breaking the record set the previous day. Laube and Finley both made five threes in the game, and also led the team in scoring with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Five Panthers were in double-figures for scoring in the contest, and eight different Panthers made at least one three-pointer. UNI made 21-37 threes, good enough for 56.8% in the game, while Evansville did not make a single shot from beyond the arc. A’Niah Griffin and Abby Feit both had 14 apiece for the Purple Aces.

UNI’s only senior being honored for Senior Day was Megan Maahs. For the game, she scored nine points and had eight rebounds in her final home game as a Panther. Upon leaving the floor for the final time, she was met with a standing ovation from the limited-capacity crowd at the McLeod Center.

Following the game, Maahs addressed the crowd by saying, “I wanted to thank my teammates, coaches and family for supporting me through my collegiate career. But we still have two more games this season against Southern Illinois, so we aren’t done yet.” UNI head women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren called Maahs “the most hard-working, selfless player that I have ever coached.”

Maahs was an Missouri Valley Conference all-freshman selection back in 2017. In 2018, she was named first-team all-MVC, first-team all-MVC defense and first-team all-MVC tournament. She will go down as the UNI women’s basketball team’s all-time leading rebounder.

The Panther women will finish their regular season March 5-6 in Carbondale, Ill. for their final two games before the MVC conference tournament, or “Hoops in the Heartland.” The conference tournament will be played March 11-14 at the Taxslayer Center in Moline, Ill.