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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

UNI Hoops History

McLeod Center sells out for first time in women’s basketball history for Iowa matchup
The highly-anticipated in-state matchup between the Panthers and the No. 3 ranked team in the country, the Iowa Hawkeyes, marked the first time the McLeod Center has sold out for women’s basketball in program history.

6,790 fans crowded into the McLeod Center on Sunday to witness UNI women’s basketball history.

Redshirt-sophomore forward Shateah Wetering goes up for a shot. (JACOB KURT)

The highly-anticipated in-state matchup between the Panthers and the No. 3 ranked team in the country, the Iowa Hawkeyes, marked the first time the McLeod Center has sold out for women’s basketball in program history. The last time McLeod sold out was in 2015 when the men’s basketball team beat No. 1 North Carolina in front of 7,018 fans.

Going into the game, junior point guard Maya McDermott said that the Panthers were looking forward to the challenge.

“This is my fourth year, and this year has been probably our toughest non-conference schedule, so we’re super excited about it … You want to set a big goal for yourself no matter what and then you want to win those games,” McDermott said.

For fans, though, acquiring tickets was a challenge in itself. UNI Athletics held a random drawing for student tickets that students could enter online. 

Sophomore Ashlyn Wilkins is a devoted Panther basketball fan, and she knew right away that the game was going to be a sight to behold.

“Iowa obviously has a really big reputation, so getting to see them play against a school of that size with that reputation was going to be really exciting,” she said.

Wilkins submitted the form as soon as the drawing entry email slid into her inbox. However, she wasn’t lucky enough to receive a ticket. Instead, she got a ticket from the family of her high school friend, sophomore forward Ryley Goebel.

“My friend, Ryley, her mom was like ‘Hey, if you don’t get a ticket I have an extra one, so you are more than welcome to have it,’” Wilkins said.

Wilkins was able to find a spot in the student section for the game, while other students entered a frenzy to get a hold of unclaimed tickets by lining up in person at the ticket office the Friday before the game. Others bought from resellers.

An hour and a half before tip-off, the stands were already starting to pack with Panther and Hawkeye fans alike.

The energy in the McLeod Center was unlike any other that had been seen in the arena. As the teams tipped off everybody in attendance knew they were in for something special. The Hawkeyes started off hot from inside the paint but the Panthers defense stood right there with them to keep it close. The Hawkeyes went on another run, but a big move by center Grace Boffeli cut the Iowa lead to just 10 points. Shortly after, Riley Wright got a steal on the defensive end of the court and was quick to convert it into two points. The first quarter concluded after two more points from UNI to make it a nine-point game going into the second quarter with a score of 20-11 with the Hawkeyes on top.

The sold-out crowd waits with bated breath as Maya McDermott attempts a three-pointer. The purple and gold faithful were electric as the Panthers faced No. 3 ranked Iowa. (UNI ATHLETICS/ELI HULL)

 With the start of the second quarter, the Panthers were looking to add on to the momentum they had late in the first quarter. They did just that when Emerson Green drew a charge to an eruption from the McLeod Center faithful. Maya McDermott made sure the call was not in vain, as shortly after she made a 3-pointer to keep the energy up and make the score 14-22 early in the second. The Panthers were unable to keep the momentum for too long as an explosive Iowa offense went on a 10-4 run. Taryn Wharton had a huge sequence for the Panthers as she had two straight layups, made possible by superb ball handling skills. The Hawkeyes had yet another explosive run to conclude the half as they looked to make their presence known in the Cedar Valley. The Panthers trailed 40-25 going into the second half of play. 

The second half started with sparks from the Panthers. Wharton got the crowd hot with an and-one early in the quarter. Green answered back with a three to make the game 31-50 with Iowa slowly widening the gap on the Panthers. After a timeout call, Shateah Wetering hit a layup for the Panthers. While the Hawkeyes started to get hot from beyond the arc, Green stole the ball and dished it to Wright for a score. Boffeli, who was in foul trouble for most of the game due to the aggressiveness of the Hawkeyes, scored a nice baseline jumper in the third quarter. After another timeout was called by the Panthers the score was set at 63-37 Iowa. The Hawkeyes continued a barrage of 3-pointers to halt any chance of a comeback the Panthers had in mind. Both teams entered into the fourth quarter looking at a score of 75-41 with Iowa in firm control.

Wharton was the star of the Panthers team in the fourth quarter as she looked to close the gap between the two teams. She had a steal early in the fourth quarter to make sure the team kept their head up high despite the deficit. Wetering fired off a post move to keep the Panthers moving forward but it would all be for naught. Wright also had two great plays in traffic to close the game for the Panthers down the stretch. The final score saw the Hawkeyes winning 94-53 to cap off their historic trip to Cedar Falls. 

History was made on the McLeod Center court as one of the best players in the country, Caitlin Clark, became Iowa’s all time leading scorer in women’s basketball history. The Panther faithful were able to see a generational talent do something that has never been done in the history of the Hawkeye program. 

This was also a historic arrival due to the return of Iowa’s head coach Lisa Bluder to the campus of UNI. Bluder (formerly Geske) was a starter for the Panthers women’s basketball team from 1979-1983. She was inducted into the UNI Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000. “[Selling out] isn’t something that would happen when I was here. We played in the Dome though, so that would be hard,” Bluder joked. “When you come to your former place, you always want to do well and I feel like we did.” 

The Panthers were disappointed in their performance in front of a sellout crowd and wished they would have represented themselves in a way that better reflected the program. “This game in no way defines this team,” coach Tanya Warren said following the game. “This team is better than that. People learn from this game and if we can get ourselves healthy we feel like we have a really great team.” 

The Panthers will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Muncie, Indiana against Ball State at 10:30 a.m. 

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About the Contributors
CADEN SHEA, Sports Editor
JACOB KURT, Staff Writer, Sports Photographer

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