LAHAINA, Maui – The Panther women’s basketball team couldn’t finish the sweep of the Maui Classic, falling to the Oregon State Beavers 59-70.
It was an uphill battle for UNI as they faced the Beavers in the final game of the Maui Jim Maui Classic. Falling behind early, the Panthers weren’t able to overcome Oregon State’s size on the floor. UNI would force 14 turnovers from the Beavers, one of their best defensive performances against another Division 1 team.
“I thought we battled throughout the game,” said Head Coach Tanya Warren. “We have not and likely will not see that size at all five positions. But I thought our fight in the second half was great. We were a little tentative in the first half but I thought we showed some toughness in the second half. I’m extremely proud of how we battled and I thought we got better tonight, which is the most important thing.”
In the first quarter, the Panthers would get the first points on the board from guard Kam Finley as she made a driving layup off a turnover. But the Beavers would answer right back, going on a six-point run until the next UNI basket two minutes later. The teams would trade threes before Oregon State would again go on another run, scoring four points in under a minute. Guard Kayba Laube would break the four-minute scoring drought for the Panthers with a three-point jumper with two minutes to go. The last two minutes of the quarter would be back and forth basketball with the Beavers getting the final shot as UNI trailed 13-20.
Oregon State would start the scoring in the second half but the Panthers would get the first trey as Finley launched a ball off a fast break. The Beavers would answer with a three-pointer of their own to start a 10-point run over four minutes. After guard Kiana Barney broke UNI’s scoring drought at the line, the Panthers would find a spurt of offense, going on a 5-point run in under a minute. UNI’s last basket of the half would be made by Rucker on a jumper with under a minute to go, heading into halftime down 24-38.
It’d be a quick start to the second half for both teams as they traded baskets within 20 seconds. The Panthers would then go on a 6-point run at the start of the quarter to drop the deficit to 11. Following the run, it would be quiet offensively until UNI made 3 free throws in a row during the 4th minute. A jumper by guard Maya McDermott in the 6th minute would get the Panthers within single digits for the first time since the beginning of the second quarter. Oregon State would answer back with a 6 point run but UNI would close out the quarter with the final basket, heading into the last quarter trailing the Beavers 38-49.
The final frame would start with each team matching the other shot with jumpers and treys. The Panthers would cut the margin down to 7 heading into the 4th minute with a driving layup from Rucker. Oregon State would answer with a three-pointer halfway through the quarter, putting the deficit back into double-digits. A five-point run in the final two minutes would seal the deal for UNI, falling to the Beavers 59-70.
As a team, the Panthers shot 21-61 (34%) from the floor, 6-23 (26%) from three-point range, and 11-15 (73%) from the free-throw line. Defensively the Panthers had a strong game forcing 14 Beaver turnovers. On the boards, UNI grabbed 33 rebounds and made 8 steals.
Rucker led the way offensively for the Panthers for the second game in a row with 17 total points. Rucker shot 7-15 from the floor, 2-3 (66%) from behind the arc, and 1-2 (50%) from the charity stripe while being named to the All-Tournament Team. Finley also had a double-digit game with 11 points on 4-12 (33%) shooting from the floor, 1-4 (25%) from three-point range, and 2-2 (100%) from the line.
Defensively Bre Gunnels grabbed the most rebounds with 9. Finley followed closely behind with 7 boards of her own along with 2 steals. Guard Nicole Kroeger also had 2 steals on the night for UNI.
The Panthers will have a week and a half break for the Christmas holiday before beginning conference play against the Evansville Aces. UNI will play the Aces back at home on Dec. 30 with tipoff set for 6 p.m. from the McLeod Center.