Panther women keep rolling with two straight wins

The UNI women’s basketball team picked up two road wins to cap off the regular season, finishing with 20 wins and earning the No. 3 seed in the Hoops in the Heartland tournament, scheduled to begin on Friday, March 11.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Writer

The UNI women’s basketball team finished the regular season this week with road victories over Indiana State and Evansville to give them momentum with a four-game win streak going into postseason play with the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament, or “Hoops in the Heartland” as the women’s tournament is nicknamed. The Panthers earned their first 20-win season since 2018-2019 and their 20 wins will give them the No. 3 seed in Hoops in the Heartland in Moline, Ill. 

The Panther women went on the road to Terra Haute, Ind. on Thursday to battle the Sycamores of Indiana State. The Panthers and Sycamores had a tightly contested first quarter, but Indiana State turned it on in the second half, finishing the first half of play with a 14-point lead. Indiana State started the second half with another basket giving them a 16-point lead, but that would be their biggest in the game as the Panthers slowly mounted a comeback.

UNI was led by senior guard Karli Rucker as she scored 22 points in the game to cut the lead down. The Panthers made a huge impact going on an incredible 20-0 run to close the final six minutes of the third quarter. UNI’s Emerson Green started the fourth quarter strong with a five point run by herself, but was quickly interrupted by a 13-0 run for the Sycamores. The run was not enough, however, as the Panthers defeated Indiana State with a score of 61-55.

UNI stayed in the state of Indiana as they traveled south to Evansville to face the Purple Aces. They kept the pressure on Evansville for the majority of the game. The first quarter was highlighted by a deep three-pointer from the Evansville logo by freshman guard Maya McDermott.

The Panthers led the Purple Aces 20-8 going into the second quarter of play. The Panthers continued momentum by going 5-7 from three within the span of 10 minutes in the second quarter ending the half with a 45-24 lead over Evansville. UNI kept the momentum heading into the second half, not taking their feet off the gas. The Aces tried to cut the lead down the best they could but were unsuccessful as the Panthers ended up winning 83-56. Nicole Kroeger and McDermott led the Panthers with 14 points each in the UNI victory.

UNI’s high energy offense and stout defense carried them to an impressive 20-9 record on the year. The Panthers look ahead to the postseason as they are scheduled to play Valparaiso in the first round of the MVC Tournament in Moline, Ill. on Friday with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m.