Panthers bow out to Cornhuskers



Maya McDermott (0) played well in UNI’s final game, finishing with a team-high 19 points.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Editor

The UNI women’s basketball season ended in devastating fashion as the Panthers were defeated by the Nebraska Cornhuskers 77-57 in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The team gave it their all against an impressive Cornhuskers team. Nebraska used their size to their advantage to overcome the Panthers. The Panthers also lacked the ability to handle the ball as the Huskers picked up 16 points off turnovers. 

The game began as evenly as possible as both teams went back-and-forth getting points on the scoreboard. The Panthers got things started as they scored nine points in a two minute span. Both teams attempted to get the upper hand on each other as the Huskers would claw their way back into contention, giving the Panthers only a 17-16 advantage going into the second quarter.

The Huskers took control of the court to kick off the second quarter. The Huskers defense would keep the Panthers scoreless for three minutes until Maya McDermott made a layup to halt their run. It would not be enough, however, as the Huskers went on a big run giving them a double-digit lead over UNI. Rachael Heittola hit a clutch, last second three to bring the Panthers within nine points of their opponents. The Huskers led 38-29 as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms.

The Huskers once again took control as the second half commenced. The Huskers defense would attempt to keep the Panthers down for the bulk of the matchup. The Panthers ignited a spark halfway through the third quarter, highlighted by a five-point run. This once again pushed the Panthers within single-digits of Nebraska. The Huskers responded with an offensive barrage of their own, outscoring the Panthers by six points in the last half of the quarter. The Panthers trailed 61-45 as the final quarter took off. 

The Panthers attempted to close the gap in order to make it to the Super Sixteen. McDermott helped her team get back into contention with several shots made in the beginning of the fourth quarter. The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the game. As the Panthers attempted to close the gap, they realized it was too late as the Huskers continued the pressure in all aspects of the game. The Panthers ended up falling to Nebraska, 77-57, knocking them out of the tournament and subsequently ending their season.

McDermott led the Panthers in points for the game with 19. She also aided her team on the defensive side of the ball, forcing two steals. Emerson Green had 11 points with nine of those points being from beyond the arc. Grace Boffeli finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Heittola finished the game with nine points, adding one block to go with it. 

One of the main reasons that the Panthers couldn’t quite capitalize on the game was the fact that they could not get shots to fall. The Panthers only shot 38.6% from the field and 31% from three. The Huskers beat UNI in almost every statistical category. The Panthers had 13 turnovers while Nebraska only had seven. The Panthers just could not get anything going as the game progressed and the Huskers stayed on top of them.

As has become the expectation under Coach Tanya Warren, the Panthers once again ended their season in the postseason, finishing in the WNIT for the fifth straight year, not including the 2019-20 season, when all postseason tournaments were cancelled. The Panthers graduate two seniors, Kam Finley and Cynthia Wolf, both starters that prepped locally in Cedar Falls. However, barring transfers, everyone else should be back, allowing the Panthers to return a bulk of their contributors from this season. UNI will surely expect to compete atop the Missouri Valley Conference once again next season.