CEDAR FALLS – Karli Rucker hit a three-pointer with just over a minute to play to break up a 22-11 Valparaiso run and help the Panthers hold on for the 77-70 win to stay undefeated at home.
Four players scored in double figures, led by Nicole Kroeger with a season-high 18. The win pushes the Panthers over .500 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
After trading buckets to start the game, the Panthers went on a 13-0 run to build a 17-4 lead with 1:44 left in the first quarter. The Crusaders cut the lead to 20-10 after one.
Valparaiso started the second quarter on a 13-2 run to give the Crusaders a 23-22 lead with 4:00 to play in the first half. The Panthers battled back with a 9-2 run of their own to take a 31-25 lead into the break. Kroeger scored eight of her 18 points in the first half on 2-2 from the three-point line and 2-2 from the charity stripe.
The Panthers outscored the Crusaders 22-18 in the third quarter and extended the lead to 53-43 heading into the fourth.
UNI opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers. Abby Gerrits hit the first on an assist from Rucker. Rucker hit the second three on the assist from Kristina Cavey. The Panthers built a 61-45 lead, but Valparaiso would not go away quietly.
The Crusaders went on a 22-11 run to cut the UNI advantage to 70-67 with 2:46 to play. The two teams traded possessions, but couldn’t find the bucket until Rucker broke the streak with 1:06 left. The Panthers outscored Valparaiso 10-3 down the stretch to earn the win.
The Panthers had a strong contribution from the bench, outscoring the Crusaders 18-0 in that category. UNI also outscored Valparaiso 18-2 in fast-break points.
Along with Kroeger’s 18 points, Rucker added 17, Cavey scored 12 and Gerrits tallied 11. Rucker had a team-high five assists and Kroeger added three steals.
The Panthers were 25-62 (40.3%) from the field and 12-30 (43.3%) from the three-point line. UNI picked up a 39-31 edge on the boards.
– 13-0 run in the first quarter.
– UNI had an 18-0 advantage in bench points.
– The Panthers racked up an 18-2 advantage in fast-break points.
– Nicole Kroeger tallied a season-high 18 points.
The Panthers are again home for a pair of games next weekend, hosting Missouri State Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Southern Illinois Sunday at 2 p.m. the McLeod Center.