Women’s team falls short in WNIT

DAVID WARRINGTON

This past Friday the UNI Panthers women’s basketball team competed in the semifinals of the 2021 Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at My Town Movers Fieldhouse in Collierville, Tenn. After getting wins over Dayton, Creighton and Saint Louis, the Panthers entered with a season record of 17-12. Their opponent, the Ole Miss Rebels, entered 14-11, having defeated Samford, Tulane and Colorado on their path to the semifinals. Despite a tough fight through all four quarters, the Panthers exciting postseason run came to an end, falling 60-50.

The game was tight through the opening minutes, with both teams trading baskets and keeping things within a couple points. The pace changed with 5:01 left in the opening period when the Rebels went on an 8-1 run, closing the quarter with a 20-11 lead.

The Panthers didn’t manage to score for the opening three minutes of the second quarter, but they did manage to put together a nice stretch of back-to-back buckets to get within six points with six minutes remaining in the half. The Rebels managed to stop the Panthers from taking over the momentum, and going into halftime UNI trailed by the score of 31-23.

The Panthers fought hard to try and reclaim the lead in the third quarter, but every time UNI got a basket, the Rebels would follow suit with a score of their own. UNI did manage to outscore Ole Miss in the final quarter, 13-11, but it was too little, too late, as the Rebels came away with a 60-50 victory to earn a spot in the WNIT Championship.

The leading scorer for the Panthers was senior guard Karli Rucker, scoring 16 points while adding a team-high five assists. She was followed by redshirt senior forward Megan Maahs. In her final game with the Purple and Gold, Maahs managed to score seven points to go along with a team-high eight rebounds.

The loss represented the end of an outstanding career for Megan Maahs. The fifth-year senior finishes her UNI career sitting 15th on the all-time scoring list with 1,140 points, as well as second on the all-time rebounding list with 882 rebounds.

The Rebels were led in scoring by Shakira Austin, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds. Austin was followed in scoring by Madison Scott. Scott finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points to go with 11 rebounds.

The loss marks the end of the 2020-21 women’s basketball season for the UNI Panthers. The Panthers finish the year with a 17-13 record capped off with an exciting, unprecedented run in the WNIT tournament. The Panther women will now turn their attention towards the upcoming 2021-22 season.