UNI wins on Senior Day, beats Illinois State 70-63

Karlie+Rucker+was+one+of+the+UNI+seniors+honored+last+Sunday.

TONI FORTMANN

Karlie Rucker was one of the UNI seniors honored last Sunday.

DREW HILL

    In UNI’s home finale against Illinois State, the women’s basketball team celebrated Senior Day for Karli Rucker, Bre Gunnels, and Nicole Kroeger. The Panthers came into the matchup with a 17-9 overall record and a 10-5 conference record, good for fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings. Just a half-game ahead of the Panthers in the conference standings were these Illinois State Redbirds, with a 15-12 overall record and an 11-5 conference record. The winner would control third place.

The game began with a slow start for UNI, as they only put up two points for nearly three minutes. They finally got the scoring going, and after getting down 11-6 early, they cut the lead to three at 11-8 with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter. Neither team scored for about two-and-a-half minutes, but UNI finally scored to cut the lead to one at 11-10. Illinois State rattled off a quick 8-0 run, but UNI’s Emerson Green got an and-one to get the Panthers within six at 19-13 going into the second quarter.

After Illinois State scored quickly, UNI went on a 9-0 run to take a one-point lead at 22-21. The Redbirds soon tied the game, and the scoring went back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter. The score was tied 32-32 at the half.

The third quarter featured more of the same early on. After the Redbirds tied the game 38-38 with just over six minutes to go, UNI began to pull away. They stretched the lead out to seven at 46-39. When Illinois State cut the lead to three with a little over a minute left, UNI closed the quarter on a 7-2 run to take an eight-point lead into the fourth at 55-47. This was their biggest lead of the game up to that point. Gunnels had nine of her 19 points in the third to help the Panthers pull away.

UNI scored twice early in the fourth quarter while keeping the Redbirds scoreless for the first three minutes to take a twelve-point lead at 59-47. Illinois State tried to chip away, but could not get the score within seven until about a minute to play. The closest they got was within five at 63-68, but a free throw each from seniors Gunnels and Kroeger helped close the game to give UNI the 70-63 win.

Gunnels led UNI in scoring with 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Grace Boffeli also put up 17 points and led the Panthers in rebounding with 11 for a double-double. Rucker led in assists with five.

With the win, UNI moved into third-place in the MVC standings. They finish the regular season on a road trip to Indiana, with games at Indiana State on Thursday, March 3, and at Evansville on Saturday, March 5.