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UNI women’s basketball grabs dominating 88-76 win over Colorado State in WNIT opening round

CEDAR FALLS - An all-around shooting performance for the Panthers sealed a 88-76 first-round Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) win over Colorado State.

CEDAR FALLS – An all-around shooting performance for the Panthers sealed a 88-76 first-round Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) win over Colorado State.

Knowing it was their final game in the McLeod Center for the season, the UNI Panthers were a firepower on offense in a big first-round win over the Colorado State Rams. UNI shot over 52% from the entire floor and made a perfect five for five from three in the second quarter. Four Panthers had double-digit performances while forward Grace Boffeli set a season-high in rebounds with 15 for her 15th double-double of the season.

“They did a terrific job of sharing the basketball and I loved our offense tonight.,” said Head Coach Tanya Warren following the win. “And for the most part, I thought we defended well. We haven’t seen a team like them in terms of their five-out motion and all five kids’ ability to put the basketball on the floor. So we had to mix up some things defensively, but I thought for the most part on both ends of the floor we played extremely well today. And I was a little worried coming in, I’m not going to lie. But I thought our kids did a terrific job of being game ready,”.

UNI’s three-point shooting was hot early, making three treys in the first five minutes of the game. Colorado State matched the Panthers for threes once but a seven-point run put UNI back on top, where they would stay for the rest of the game. The Panther lead was cut down to as little as two with 2:30 to go in the first, but three baskets from UNI’s forwards had the team leading by three after the first quarter.

The Panthers truly hit the gas in the second quarter, outscoring the Rams 32-16 while making every three they attempted. UNI pulled away after four minutes of back-and-forth buckets. A 10-2 run in the sixth minute of the second gave the Panthers their first double-digit lead of the game. UNI’s defense then held Colorado State scoreless for almost the final three minutes of the first half while sinking three treys. The Rams snuck in one layup as the clock expired but the Panthers still held a 19-point advantage going into the second half.

Both teams struggled to get anything to fall at the beginning of the third with the first points of the second half coming on free throw attempts. UNI made the first true bucket of the third on another three from guard Emerson Green to push the lead out to 21. The Panthers had their largest lead of the game a basket later as point guard Maya McDermott made her fourth three of the game to make it a 24-point game. Colorado State responded by putting up its second-best run of the night, but UNI answered in the final minute and a half of the third. Seven points over a minute 49 had the Panthers leading by 17 with one quarter to go.

While it took UNI over a minute to score in the fourth, the scoring started with a bang as McDermott sunk her fifth three-pointer of the night. Two free throws from guard Kam Finley a minute later had the Panthers almost back in 20-point lead territory. The teams traded shots going into the under-five media timeout. Following the timeout, the Rams made their best run, putting up nine points in two minutes. McDermott broke the scoring drought for UNI with over a minute left on a three-point play in the paint. One more trip to the line for Finley ended the game for the Panthers as they secured their first win of the WNIT over Colorado State.

UNI’s firebrand offense led the way on Thursday night as the Panthers led in all shooting categories going 27-50 (54%) from the floor, 12-23 (52.2%) from three, and 22-28 (78.6%) from the line. UNI also won the rebounding game with 33. Thursday was the Panthers’ only game of the year to not have a block, and only had one steal.

McDermott led the team in points with 21 and dished out five assists while Finley added 19 points. Green contributed 17 points, while Boffeli pitched in a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Forward Ryley Goebel had UNI’s lone steal of the night.

The Panthers hit the road to face the Nebraska Huskers in the second round of the WNIT. UNI will face Nebraska for the first time since the 2016 WNIT when the Panthers picked up their lone win in program history against the Huskers. Tipoff from Lincoln is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.

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