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UNI women’s basketball winning streak snapped by Drake in 65-57 loss

DES MOINES – The UNI women’s basketball team wasn’t able to overcome a slow first quarter as their winning streak came to an end against in-state rival Drake tonight in Des Moines.

Not being able to shoot more than 35% from any part of the floor was a key factor in the Panthers 65-57 loss to the Bulldogs. UNI was able to fight back and tie the game up four times while taking the lead once in the fourth quarter. But six missed shots in the last two and a half minutes ended the Panthers chance at a comeback.

“First of all, I want to give Drake credit. I thought they outplayed us in every facet,” said Head Coach Tanya Warren on the loss. “I thought that was probably the worst quarter of defense we’ve played all year long. We battled to give ourselves a chance, but we didn’t have anybody that played well. And you have to give Drake a lot of credit.”

UNI took an early lead to start the game with a jump shot from guard Karli Rucker off a Drake turnover. It’d be back and forth until the Bulldogs went on a short seven-point run, giving them a 14-8 lead. Drake would grow the lead to eight before the Panthers would be able to bring it back down to five with a minute to go in the quarter. UNI would head into the second with just 15 points and down by seven.

The Panthers would have their best overall shooting quarter of the game in the second. The Bulldogs would have the first basket of the second but their offense would go cold for the next three minutes. In those three minutes, UNI would add five points from center Cynthia Wolf and forward Bre Gunnels bringing the gap down to four. Following free throws for Drake, it would return to a back and forth battle until the final three minutes. The Bulldogs would bring their lead up to nine with 1:44 to go in the half. But a six-point stretch for the Panthers would have them down by only four heading into halftime.

It would continue to be a battle between the two teams in the second half as they traded baskets for the first three minutes. Drake would have another five-point run to get the lead back up to nine with 3:30 left in the quarter. UNI would answer back with a five-point run of their own with two to go. The Panthers would also get the last two shots of the quarter, making it a one-point game heading into the final frame.

UNI would start the fourth quickly with a fast layup from Gunnels to tie the game. Drake would answer back with a layup of their own but the Panthers would get it tied again with a driving layup from guard Nicole Kroeger. UNI would get their only lead of the fourth a minute later as Rucker made a second-chance layup. Three quick shots from the Bulldogs would get them back in front by four with 5:30 to go. A four-point run over three minutes from the Panthers had the game tied up for the final time. Drake would close the game out on an eight-point run to win the game 65-57 at home.

As a team, the Panthers only shot 25-70 (35.7%) from the floor, 5-26 (19.2%) from behind the arc, and 2-6 (33.3%). UNI did have a season-high 10 blocks in Friday night’s game, just two blocks shy of the program record. The Panthers also had 39 rebounds, 6 steals, and only nine turnovers in 40 minutes.

Only two Panthers were able to reach double-digits against the Bulldogs. Karli Rucker and Nicole Kroeger had 12 and 11 points respectively with Cynthia Wolf just barely missing the figure with nine points. Forward Grace Boffeli again led UNI in total rebounds with 10 boards in 23 minutes of play. Gunnels also tied her career-high in blocks against Drake with 5 blocks through the evening.

The Panthers return to the road next week for two Illinois matchups. First UNI will take on Illinois State Thursday, Jan. 27 before heading to Peoria to face Bradley on Saturday, Jan. 29. Tipoff for the game against the Redbirds is set for 6 p.m.

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