Panther women fall in heartbreaker to SIU, 64-60

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

The UNI women’s basketball team traveled to Carbondale, Ill. on Friday, Feb. 11, to face the Southern Illinois Salukis with both teams near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings. The Panthers came into the game on a six-game winning streak that bumped their record up to 16-6 overall and 9-2 in conference play while Southern Illinois came in with a record of 13-7 and a conference record of 8-2. UNI had defeated the Salukis 66-57 on Jan. 15 at home in Cedar Falls earlier this season. 

SIU came out hot and jumped out to a 7-0 lead early on. It took UNI just over three minutes to score, but Emerson Green got them on the board with a two-point jumper. UNI scored again to cut the lead to three, but Southern Illinois then went on another 7-0 run. The Panthers continued to struggle from the field in the first quarter, and closed the quarter down 19-8. They found a little more offense in the second quarter, but the Salukis also continued to score, and UNI was down 33-19 at the end of the half. 

The Panthers finally flipped the switch in the third quarter and went on an 11-3 run in the first five minutes of the quarter to get the score to 36-30. Southern Illinois stretched the lead back out to 10 in the next three minutes. UNI’s Grace Boffeli closed the quarter with a layup just before the end, and the score was 46-39 in favor of Southern Illinois. 

The fourth quarter began with both teams going back-and-forth. The Salukis stretched the lead out to 11, but with just over two minutes left, UNI cut the lead to five. A quick 4-0 run by Southern Illinois brought the lead back out to nine, but a jumper by Karli Rucker and a pair of three-pointers by Nicole Kroeger and Kam Finley got UNI within three at 63-60 with five seconds left. UNI fouled SIU’s Makenzie Silvey with four seconds left. She missed the first free throw, but made the second, giving the Salukis a 64-60 lead. After a UNI miss, the score was final. The loss ended UNI’s six-game winning streak. 

The Panthers were led in scoring by Finley, who had 25 points. Rucker contributed 12 points and four assists while Cynthia Wolf led the team in rebounding off the bench with six rebounds. They will play next in Springfield, Mo. against Missouri State on Feb. 13 before returning home to the McLeod Center on Saturday, Feb. 19 when they host Drake.