A tough road trip to central Illinois yielded a split for the UNI Panther women’s basketball team during the opening days of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule.
The closing moments of Friday’s game against the Illinois State Redbirds almost gave the Panthers the start they were hoping for at the outset of MVC play.
Karli Rucker missed the mark in the final seconds and ISU pulled out a 66-64 win over UNI.
The Panthers had led for most of the game, including a nine-point edge early in the fourth quarter, before Illinois State went on a 14-2 run. Going back and forth in the closing minutes, the winning margin for the Redbirds came on a pair of free throws in the last half minute.
Ellie Howell scored a team-high 14 points.
On Sunday, freshman Kam Finley assured that a few extra minute spent on the road were worth it. Finley canned a three-pointer 96 seconds into overtime, giving the Panthers a 71-69 lead and a clear path to an 81-78 victory versus the Bradley Braves.
Bradley nearly extended the game five minutes farther.
The Braves’ Gabi Haack buried a contested three-pointer at the buzzer to presumably tie the game at 81, but on review, the shot came a split-second too late, and the Panthers rolled home with the victory.
The game was a back-and-forth battle in the first half and the two teams entered the break tied at 27. UNI went on an 18-2 run in the third quarter to take a 53-38 lead. The Braves would not go away quietly, outscoring UNI 28-13, to close out regulation.
Finley had a career-high 15 points. Mikaela Morgan tied a career-high with 18. Taylor Hagen Karli Rucker each added 11.
The Panthers return home for three games in a row, starting with Valparaiso on Friday, January 11th at 7 p.m.