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UNI women’s basketball downs Kansas City in WNIT opening round, 75-58; face Drake next

CEDAR FALLS – The UNI women’s basketball team was able to survive and advance in the WNIT tournament with a 75-58 win over the Kansas City Roos.

It was another full team performance from the Panthers as they made a statement in their first game of post-season play Thursday evening. UNI would shoot almost 50% from all areas of the floor in their WNIT opening-round win against Kansas City, flexing their offensive muscles after a tough loss to end the MVC tournament last week. Three Panthers ended the game in double figures while rebounds were spread evenly among the team.

“It was a terrific team win,” said Head Coach Tanya Warren after the game. “I liked the character that this team showed and bouncing back. Because obviously we were devastated by what took place on Sunday. But it shows a lot of character for these young women to bounce back the way they did tonight. I thought our defense was terrific for three quarters.”

The pace would be quick to start the game at the McLeod Center as the two teams traded shots for the first five minutes. It would be back and forth until the Roos got a three-point play with four minutes to go in the first quarter. The three-point play would spark an eight-point Kansas City run. Freshman guard Emerson Green would end the Panther scoring drought with a three-pointer at the 2:45 mark. It would return to a back and forth game until UNI closed out the first on a three-point run to be down by two.

The start of the second quarter would be slower as it took two minutes for each team to score more than a basket. The quarter also began with a Panther foul, putting the Roos at the line for two. Junior guard Kam Finley would counter with a three-pointer 12 seconds later. But another foul and a Kansas City second-chance layup would draw an early timeout called by UNI. Out of the timeout, the Panthers would put together a six-point run to get out in front by one. The Roos would tie it up quickly but senior guard Karli Rucker countered with a trey to get UNI back on top. The Panthers would end the quarter on a 9-2 run to head into halftime with a 41-33 lead.

UNI would have their best defensive quarter in the third, keeping Kansas City scoreless for almost five minutes. It’d be another hot Panther start as Finley hit her third three-pointer of the game in the first 14 seconds to get UNI out to its first double-digit lead of the game. The Roos would be able to answer with a brief five-point run but the Panthers would answer back with a short run of their own. After a foul in three-point range, Kansas City hit three back-to-back free throws to cut the deficit down to seven. But freshman forward Grace Boffeli would get her offense going, almost immediately putting in a layup for UNI. Another shot by Boffeli would force a Roos timeout with five minutes remaining in the third. Kansas City would get one more basket in before the Panthers closed out the quarter on an eight-point run to go up 60-43.

It’d be another quick start for UNI in the final frame of the game as Green hit another three-pointer in the first 20 seconds. The Roos would answer with a layup 15 seconds later but neither team would score for the next two minutes until junior center Cynthia Wolf made a second-chance layup. Kansas City would call an early timeout after the layup but the timeout wouldn’t reset much as the Panthers would get the next basket a minute and a half later. It would return to back and forth basketball midway through the quarter until UNI pulled most of their starters after the fourth trey from Finley. The Roos would have their last run of the game over the final two minutes, making four baskets. But it would be the Panthers night, winning their first WNIT game 75-58.

UNI had a strong shooting game on Thursday, shooting almost 50% from the entire court. On the floor, the Panthers went 30-58 (51.7%) while from three-point range UNI would be 10-22 (45.5%). To round out the Panthers scoring they would go 5-7 (71.4%) from the free-throw line. UNI narrowly won the rebounding game 35-31 and pulled in two blocks.

Karli Rucker (19), Kam Finley (17), and Emerson Green (13) would be the three Panther players in double figures. Grace Boffeli would almost get into double-figures with eight points on the night. Rebounds were spread fairly evenly among the team as Bre Gunnels and Cynthia Wolf both pulled in a team-high six boards. Nicole Kreoger, Boffeli, Rucker, McDermott, and McCullough would also pull in multiple rebounds on the night.

The Panthers move into the second round of the WNIT tournament where they will face MVC rival Drake in their third contest of the season. UNI will look to avenge their two regular-season losses to the Bulldogs on Saturday. A specific location and time for the game will be announced on Friday.

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