Defense has been a strength of the UNI women's basketball team all season. It was solid again on Saturday (March 12, 2016).

The Panthers (22-9 overall) advanced to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament by beating Southern Illinois 67-43 in the semfinals. They held the Salukis to just 28-percent shooting, while limiting all 12 of Southern Illinois' active players to single-digit scoring.

Junior Madison Weekly tallied a game-high 21 points, while Jen Keitel added 10. Sharnae Lamar and Mikaela Morgan both added eight points each.

The Panthers came out firing from all cylinders, shooting 75-percent from the arc in the first six minutes of the game. They owned a 20-11 lead after the first quarter following a 12-2 run that included a trio of NBA-range 3-pointers from Weekly.

UNI continued its game of runs, going on a 7-0 spurt that included a shot clock buzzer-beating three from Morgan that put the Panthers up 39-15 with 1:39 left to play in the quarter. UNI owned a 41-17 lead at intermission after shooting 59-percent from the field in the first half and out-rebounding the Salukis 21-15.

A strong presence in the paint resulted in a dominated third quarter for Panthers. All 13 of UNI's third-quarter points came from layups (plus one foul shot), with six different players contributing to the Panthers' 54-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

UNI continued to fire away in the fourth quarter. With 6:32 left in the game, Amber Sorenson drained a 3-pointer that put the Panthers up 61-34. With the shot, she tied the school record for 3-pointers made during a season (89).

With the victory, UNI advances to the MVC Tournament title game for the third time in program history and third time under Coach Tanya Warren. The top-seeded Panthers will play No. 3-seed Missouri State for an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament  at 2 p.m. today.

The MVC Tournament championship game will be broadcast on ESPN3. UNI fans are invited to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC) to watch Panthers battle for the title, and see where the men's basketball team is heading for the NCAA Tournament. Doors open at 1:45 p.m.

Courtesy: UNI Athletics via YouTube