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Women’s College Basketball: UNI drops Illinois State, 79-75, advances to MVC Semifinals

UNI will take on the Drake Bulldogs in the MVC Semifinals after a 79-75 victory over Illinois State.

MOLINE, Ill. – UNI women’s basketball opened the 2024 MVC Tournament in dramatic fashion inside the Vibrant Arena on Friday afternoon. The Panthers jumped out to a big lead before the Redbirds cut the lead down late in the matchup. UNI held on to the lead and outlasted the Redbirds, taking home a 79-75 victory.

Illinois State struck first with a layup before a six-point run from the Panthers including back-to-back layups from Shateah Wetering. A Redbird layup ended the UNI run before a three-pointer from Kayba Laube to answer. A 6-5 UNI advantage into the first-quarter media timeout saw UNI hold a 15-9 lead over Illinois State after five minutes of the first.

Out of the media timeout, Laube flushed another three-pointer to take an 18-9 lead. Each team finished the quarter with a layup with the Panthers’ coming off the hand of Rachael Heittola to give UNI a nine-point lead at 20-11 going into the quarter break.

Back-to-back layups from the Panthers opened the second quarter of action and forced a quick Illinois State timeout. Out of the break, Illinois State scored with a layup before a pair of buckets from Taryn Wharton to push the Panther lead to 15 points at 28-13. Wharton’s buckets were followed by another three-pointer from Kayba Laube before an Illinois State jump shot to stop a seven-point UNI run.

A pair of baskets from McDermott put UNI up by a score of 35-18 before an eight-point run from the Redbirds to cut into the Panther lead. Grace Boffeli ended the first half with a jump shot to hold an 11-point lead into the halftime break.

A pair of Illinois State free throws opened the third quarter before a three-pointer from Maya McDermott. Back-to-back buckets from Illinois State cut the Panther lead to eight paint at 40-32 before a layup from Grace Boffeli. The Redbirds responded with a layup before a jump shot from Shateah Wetering took the teams into a media timeout.

Out of the media timeout, Kaybe Laube hit a three-pointer to push the Panther lead back out to 13 at 47-34. Illinois State went on a 6-2 run to shrink the gap, but Kayba Laube responded with another three-pointer. A 10-1 Redbird run saw the Panther lead shrink to three points at 53-50 before an and-one layup from Cailyn Morgan to end the third quarter with UNI leading 56-50.

An and-one layup from Ryley Goebel opened the final frame for the Panthers before a five-point run from Illinois State. Maya McDermott ended the run with a three-pointer before back-to-back Panther layups from Grace Boffeli and Cailyn Morgan. The Panthers held an 11-point lead at 66-55 after the seven-point run.

Three more points from Morgan preceded a pair of layups from the Redbirds in the back half of the fourth quarter. A jump shot from McDermott was the last field goal from UNI before the Redbirds began the foul game down eight points with short time remaining. Two free throws from Laube, two from McDermott, and four from Morgan sealed the deal for the Panthers who took home a 79-75 victory and advanced to the semifinals of Hoops in the Heartland.

McDermott led the UNI offense with 20 points. Kayba Laube was perfect from the field, going 5-of-5, all from three-point range. She finished with 17 points. Cailyn Morgan was the last Panther in double figures. She finished with 14 points and added five rebounds. Grace Boffeli led the rebounding effort for UNI with 11 boards. She was two points short of a double-double with eight points.


UNI improved to 43-48 all-time against the Redbirds with the 79-75 victory.
Maya McDermott continues to light it up from the free-throw line with a 96.2% (76-for-79) free-throw percentage after going 2-for-2 from the stripe against Illinois State.
McDermott posted her 10th 20+-point performance of the season.
Forward Grace Boffeli recorded 11 rebounds in the game against the Redbirds. Her 861 career rebounds leave her in third on UNI’s all-time rebounding list. She is now 21 shy of the no. 2 spot which is occupied by Megan Maahs (2016-21) with 882 career rebounds.
Kayba Laube lit it up from deep against the Redbirds, going 5-for5 from beyond the arc. The conference’s leading three-point shooter added to her resume with a perfect performance against Illinois State.


The Panthers move on to the semifinals of Hoops in the Heartland and will face the top-seeded Drake Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. CT at Vibrant Arena on March 16. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ or listened to on the Panther Sports Radio Network.

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