Panthers’ season ended by Drake in WNIT



The UNI women’s basketball team saw their end in the WNIT, falling to Drake on the road in Des Moines on Monday.


In a move that seemed like destiny, the UNI women’s basketball team faced the Drake Bulldogs in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), making it their third time facing each other on the season. The Panthers were coming off a 75-58 win over Kansas City in the first round, and the Bulldogs got an overtime victory over Missouri. 

Drake won the previous two matchups between these teams, 65-57 on Jan. 21, and 73-68 on Feb. 19. And on March 21, the Bulldogs secured the season sweep 62-55. 

It was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams in the first quarter. The Panthers won the opening tipoff, but the Bulldogs were able to get the first points with a layup by Grace Berg. UNI would answer back within the minute with a jump shot by Grace Boffeli. That basket sparked a seven-point run for the Panthers, with another basket by Boffeli and a three-pointer by Kam Finley.  Drake would steadily find their answer, and the quarter ended with UNI ahead 16-14. 

The stalemate continued for the majority of the second quarter until Drake put themselves ahead by five with 4:40 to go. The Panthers were able to recover from that deficit with two three-pointers by Cynthia Wolf, and a jumper from Karli Rucker. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the teams were tied 28-28.

Both team’s offenses struggled out of the gate in the second half, with only one basket, a jump shot by Nicole Kroeger, being converted within the first four minutes. Free throws helped Drake pull ahead. But Finley converted a layup and a pair of free throws to keep the Panthers ahead for most of the quarter. Rucker would make the final shot of the quarter, giving UNI a 42-40 advantage heading into the fourth. 

Unfortunately for the Purple & Gold, their third-quarter shooting struggles would continue into the fourth. Making things even worse, the Bulldogs pulled themselves out of their slump, going on a 9-0 run. UNI wouldn’t score a point until four minutes remained. By that point, the momentum had fully moved to Drake’s favor, who outscored UNI 22-13. The Panthers would see their season come to an end to one of their fiercest rivals in a 62-55 loss. 

Only making 22-72 of their shots on the night, the loss marked UNI’s worst field goal percentage on the season. One silver lining was that they were a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line. Finley led the team in scoring with 11 points, followed by Rucker and Boffeli with 10 points each. Boffeli also had 13 rebounds. 

Rucker, Kroeger and Bre Gunnels all ended their UNI careers with this game. Rucker is second in all-time scoring and the leader in career assists. Both Rucker and Kroeger made 159 appearances over their five seasons, a program record, and Gunnels has the second-most blocked shots in Panther history.