The UNI Panther women’s basketball team earned the win they needed to clinch third place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings and the corresponding third seed in the MVC tournament.
Thursday night, Mikaela Morgan connected on a jumper with just over a minute remaining, putting the Panthers ahead for good in a 61-57 win against Bradley at the McLeod Center.
The win, combined with Illinois State’s loss to Drake, locked UNI in at the third spot.
The Panthers built a 22-11 lead after the first quarter and extended the lead to 12 in the second before finishing the half ahead 34-27.
The lead dwindled to two early in the third quarter before UNI extended the margin. However, Bradley went on a late run to take their only lead of the night with under two minutes remaining.
Morgan’s clutch jumper reestablished the Panther lead, and the senior followed up at the free throw line. She finished the game with a dozen points. Karli Rucker led UNI with 15.
The Panthers dominated the glass with a 46-35 rebounding advantage, including 17 offensive boards.
Illinois State earned a consolation prize Saturday. Although the Redbirds were unable to catch the Panthers in the standings, ISU’s Simone Goods hit a go-ahead shot with less than eight seconds remaining, and the Redbirds claimed a 54-53 win in the regular season finale at the McLeod Center.
The fourth quarter began with UNI on top 41-35, but Illinois State went on a 13-2 run, setting up a seesaw finish.
UNI rallied to take a 51-48 edge before Illinois State tied the game at 52. Heidi Hillyard gave the Panthers a lead with a free throw, but the put back by Goods in the final seconds yielded the Illinois State win.
Nicole Kroeger scored a team-high 13 points for UNI.
The Panthers close the regular season with a 19-11 record and a 12-6 record in Missouri Valley Conference play.
UNI’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament run begins with a matchup against Southern Illinois Friday at 8:30 p.m.