Panthers dominate Beacons and Flames

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STEPHEN STARK

Maya McDermott (0) finished with a team-high 12 points in UNI’s 79-44 win over UIC on Saturday.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Writer

The UNI women’s basketball team had their two most dominant wins this week against Valpraiso and the University of Illinois Chicago. The Panthers scored a combined 68 points more than their opponents. The Panthers have found their rhythm in the season, making their presence known in the MVC with two conference wins. 

The first of these two victories came on Jan. 19 when they defeated the Valparaiso Beacons in home action. The Panthers started hot right out of the gate, going on a five-point run. Forward Grace Boffeli stretched the floor right away, making two 3-pointers within a three-minute span early in the first quarter. The Beacons would respond, keeping it tightly contested early in the game, cutting UNI’s lead to one point. Kayba Laube would be the Panthers answer to the onslaught with a pair of threes, prompting a Panthers run which would have them leading by 13 going into the second quarter.

The Beacons would attempt to cut the lead in the second, but the Panthers took offensive measures to prevent this from happening. UNI’s teamwork and ball movement was on full display here as the ball was shared evenly across the team. The Panthers would close the half with a 44-28 lead over the Beacons after two quarters. 

The Panthers aimed to ensure their victory in the third quarter, going on an astounding 10-3 run. Everyone was getting a chance to score this quarter, with 10 different players making baskets. The Panthers would be leading by 23 points as they looked to close the game in the final period. 

Maya McDermott looked to make a statement right away with a quick 3-pointer. The Panthers would continue to keep their foot on the gas pedal, making sure that the Beacons would never even have an opening to come back. They would finish the game winning with their biggest margin of victory this season, 89-56.

Boffeli led the Panthers with 18 points while McDermott followed with 14. Cailyn Morgan also had double-digit points, tying her career-high with 10. Cynthia Wolf commanded the boards for UNI with eight rebounds on the night. Ryley Goebel had an amazing defensive game with seven steals and two blocks over the Beacons. 

The next challenge for the Panthers would be another home game, this time against the University of Illinois Chicago Flames. The biggest story coming out of this game was Kam Finley moving her way to ninth place on the UNI’s 3-pointer rankings. Rachael Heittola also had an amazing feat with her 1,000th NCAA point between UNI and her former school Bemidji State. 

The Panthers yet again had a stellar start to the game, going on an 11-0 run in the middle of the first quarter. The Flames attempted to come back but were not successful as the Panthers finished the first quarter up 16-10. 

Both the Panthers and the Flames could not get anything to fall for the start of the second quarter. Once things started to fall for the Panthers, they continued to fall. The Panthers made five threes in the second quarter, giving them a 21 point lead as they transitioned into the next half. 

Emerson Green started the second half right where the Panthers left off with yet another three-pointer for UNI. Two more threes for the Panthers would catapult them to where they wanted to be as they continued to pick apart the Flames. They would finish the penultimate quarter with a 65-34 lead. 

The fourth quarter had the floor occupied by the UNI bench. They tried to keep the consistency that the rest of the team had in the game and they certainly did. They scored 14 points to UIC’s 10, making the final score of the game 79-44 in favor of the Panthers. 

McDermott would lead the team with 12 points, followed by Finley with 11 and Taryn Wharton with 10. Boffeli led the team with eight rebounds and Goebel had another defensive showcase with three blocks and four steals. 

UNI will be on the road next week as they will travel to Springfield, Mo. to face off with the Missouri State Lady Bears on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. in MVC action.