EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The UNI women’s basketball team picked up their first 20-win season since 2018-2019 and the sixth in program history in their victory over the Evansville Aces on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers had one of their best shooting games behind the arc against the Aces, going 12-26 (46.2) from three-point range. Players up and down the lineup contributed to UNI’s final win of the regular season with four different players in double figures and 11 Panthers making at least one basket.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Head Coach Tanya Warren after the win. “For this program to win as consistently as it has, says a lot about the young women past and present who have done a terrific job of buying in. But I couldn’t be prouder of this team. We have fallen this year but we’ve been able to get ourselves up, dust ourselves off and that’s what it’s all about. But for this team to be able to win 20 regular-season games is a terrific job and I couldn’t be prouder for us being able to do that for our seniors.”
UNI grabbed the first points of the game as guard Karli Rucker made a layup just a minute into the first. Evansville would tie the game up 30 seconds later but it would be the last time the Aces would get within striking distance of the Panthers. A 9-2 run over two minutes for UNI would put them ahead by seven with six and a half minutes to go in the quarter. Evansville would get their only run of the quarter at the six-minute mark as they went 5-2 over two minutes. But the Panthers would end the quarter on a 9-1 run, highlighted by a SportsCenter-worthy three-pointer from guard Maya McDermott. McDermott would launch the ball from the backcourt near the end of the Evansville logo and make the trey to end the first.
And the skill from three-point range continued for UNI in the second as they went 5-7 (71.4%) behind the arc over 10 minutes. Center Cynthia Wolf began the quarter with a three-point play for the Panthers. It would be back and forth for a little bit until UNI hit their run game, going 13-2 in under three minutes to get the lead out to 27. The Aces would fightback going on a 9-2 run to close out the half, but the Panthers would still lead by over 20 going into halftime.
The second half started as a back and forth game through the first three minutes. But UNI would have their second-best run of the game in the third, scoring nine points over three minutes. Midway through the third, the Panthers pulled their starters letting younger players like McDermott, guard Emerson Green, forward Sara McCullough, and guard Cailyn Morgan lead the way. Evansville would punctuate with some scoring every couple of minutes but it would remain firmly UNI’s game in the third.
The Aces would have their best quarter to close out the game with Panther starters on the bench. Evansville outscored UNI 20-18 but it wouldn’t be near enough to make up a 32-point lead as McDermott hit another trey to start the fourth. The Aces tried to answer back with leading scorer Abby Feit, but a three-point play by forward Grace Boffeli would give the Panthers their largest lead of the game at 33. Evansville went on a brief six-point run before McDermott made her fifth trey of the afternoon. The next 30 seconds would include a basket for both teams before the two went scoreless for over a minute. UNI would have their last run of the game, making three baskets over a minute 30. The Aces would close out the game on a 10-point run as the Panthers won 83-56.
UNI had their second game of the season having a perfect record from the free-throw line. The Panthers went 5-5 at the stripe. UNI also had a strong game from the rest of the court, going 33-67 (49.3%) from the floor, and 12-26 (46.2%) from three-point range. The Panthers would lose out on the rebound game as they only made 32 boards but benefited from Evansville’s 22 turnovers.
Guards Nicole Kreoger and Maya McDermott led the way for UNI in scoring as both players put up 14-point games. Wolf and Finley also had double-digit games for the Panthers while forward Sara McCullough led the team in rebounds. McCullough grabbed a career-high six rebounds through 16 minutes of play. Along with her strong shooting, McDermott also had two steals for UNI on offense.
With their 20-win season, the Panthers have earned the number three seed for the Hoops in the Heartland tournament. UNI will take on the Valparaiso Beacons in the final game of the day on Friday evening. Tip-off will be at 8:30 p.m. from the TaxSlayer Center in Moline on Friday, March 11.