SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Shooting lulls in both halves made it another tough loss for the UNI women’s basketball teams as they dropped their second on the road to the Missouri State Lady Bears on Sunday afternoon.
While the Panthers were able to lead five times, UNI wasn’t able to overcome Missouri State’s top-rated defense. Along with struggles shooting at the free-throw line, the Panthers only eclipsed 40% shooting in one quarter in the 66-57 loss.
An unusual start to the game occurred at JQH Arena as Missouri State would be called for a technical foul before tipoff. Administrative issues among the Lady Bears gave guard Kam Finley one shot at the line. Finley would miss the bucket and lose the ball on a steal a moment later.
The Panthers first basket would come at the two-and-a-half-minute mark following an early timeout. Forward Grace Boffeli would nail a jump shot to end a five-point run by Missouri State. The next points would come almost two minutes later from the Lady Bears while UNI wouldn’t score again until guard Emerson Green made it to the line at the halfway point. Green would make one of two shots at the charity stripe before Missouri State would answer with another short run. The Panthers would get two more shots in the quarter, including a last-second trey from the logo by guard Karli Rucker.
Despite the slow start, UNI would find its offense in the second quarter shooting 70% from the floor to lead by one heading into halftime. Highlights of the second for the Panthers included their largest run at eight points over two minutes in the first half of the quarter. UNI also made 50% of their shots from behind the arc that included two treys in under two minutes. Four points in the final minute of the quarter would give the Panthers the slight advantage heading into halftime.
UNI would extend its lead to three to start the third quarter with a jump shot from guard Nicole Kreoger. A made free throw by Rucker 40 seconds later would give the Panthers their largest lead of the game at four points. The Lady Bears would tie the game back up at the three 30 mark, the first of five tying scores in the quarter. The second half of the third would be back and forth basketball as the largest lead for either team would be three points. Missouri State would have the last bucket of the quarter to have UNI down by two heading into the final frame.
Thirty seconds would elapse in the fourth before the Panthers would get past the Lady Bear defense. Green ended a five-point run on a free throw attempt at 9:33. Missouri State would have a big response going on a seven-point run over two minutes. Two missed shots and two missed free throws would keep UNI quiet on the floor until forward Bre Gunnels made a second-chance layup. The Panthers would keep the deficit within single digits until halfway through the quarter.
The Lady Bears would grow the lead out to 14 with just under four minutes to go in the game thanks to a four-point run. UNI would get the scoring margin back down to just seven in the final minute, but a turnover and a foul on the Panthers two most active players would seal the deal for Missouri State as UNI lost their second in a row.
The Panthers ended the game shooting 19-46 (38.8%) from the floor, 6-18 (33.3%) from behind the arc, and 13-22 (59.1%) from the charity stripe. The UNI bench only contributed 8 points in the loss. The Panthers were also beat on the rebound game only grabbing 32 boards compared to Missouri State’s 40 rebounds.
UNI had two players in double figures with guards Karli Rucker and Kam Finley. The two guards both had 14 points in Sunday’s contest, including all but one of the team’s treys. Forwards Grace Boffeli and Bre Gunnels were just behind in scoring with eight and seven points respectively. Gunnels also led the team in rebounds with eight while guard Nicole Kreoger added seven boards, one shy of her career-high eight.
The Panthers return home next week to face in-state MVC rival, the Drake Bulldogs. The game on Feb. 19 will be UNI’s Equality & Inclusion game with Rising Coaches while also being a whiteout. Tipoff from the McLeod Center on Saturday is set for 2 p.m.