UNI Opens WNIT With Comeback Win At Nebraska
It's on to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) for the UNI Panthers after a 64-62 first-round victory at Nebraska Thursday night (March 17, 2016).
The win sets up a third meeting with in-state Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) rival Drake, which UNI beat twice during the regular season. The Panthers will host the Bulldogs at the McLeod Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
UNI (23-10 overall) beat Nebraska with strong defense and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, after rallying from an eight-point, third-quarter deficit. One of the key plays late for the Panthers was a layup that rolled off the fingers of Madison Weekly and floated into the basket as the shot clock expired, giving UNI a crucial 60-57 lead with 27 seconds left to play.
Weekly led the comeback for UNI. After being held to six points in the first three quarters, the first-team All-MVC guard erupted for 16 points in the fourth. She ended the game with six consecutive points, the last four coming at the charity stripe.
The junior finished the night with 22 points, six rebounds and a career-high tying six assists. Jen Keitel added 15 points and eight boards for UNI, while Amber Sorenson and Angie Davison both chipped in eight points each.
The Panthers and the Huskers traded baskets to start the game, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Sorenson and Weekly put UNI ahead 8-5 midway through the first quarter. The Panthers stayed hot from the perimeter, building their advantage to 17-12 after consecutive threes from Stephanie Davison, Keitel and Sorenson.
Nebraska (18-13) began to chip away at UNI's lead early in the second quarter, eventually gaining a 20-19 edge with 7:11 left in the half on a bucket from Jasmine Cincore. The Huskers built their lead to 28-25 at intermission. Natalie Romeo scored 10 of Nebraska’s 16 second quarter points.
Both teams struggled with their shooting in the third quarter. Nebraska went 2-for-12 from the floor in the first five minutes, while UNI didn’t score its first points of the period until the 3:40 mark. The Panthers trailed 41-35 entering the fourth quarter.
The Cornhuskers opened the final period with turnovers on three consecutive possessions. Those mistakes allowed UNI to rally from an eight-point (41-33) deficit and tie the score at 42-all with 6:01 remaining in the game.
Weekly finished a 12-1 run for UNI with a 3-pointer at the 5:29 mark, putting the Panthers ahead 45-42. Nebraska tied the game twice over the next two minutes, but never regained the lead.
In another first-round WNIT game, the Iowa Hawkeyes fell to Ball State, 77-72, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Four players scored in double figures for the Hawkeyes (19-14), who were led by freshman Megan Gustafson's 22 points.
The loss ends Iowa's season.