CEDAR FALLS — Attention to detail through scouting reports and the effort it takes to be a quality defensive team has quickly been embraced by the members of Northern Iowa’s youthful women’s basketball squad.

Nine underclassmen, including five true freshmen, contributed Friday night as UNI returned to win column with a 65-41 victory over last-place Evansville inside the McLeod Center.

The Panthers (7-9, 3-2 Missouri Valley Conference) held Evansville (3-12, 0-4) to under 10 points in each of the first three quarters, while knocking down nearly twice as many field goals (23 to 13).

“We definitely put a lot of emphasis on the defensive end and getting stops, and that kind of leads into being better on offense,” true freshman reserve point guard Karli Rucker said. “I think everyone bought into their role that they were playing on defense tonight.”

Sophomore center Megan Maahs led UNI with 12 of her game-high 14 rebounds coming on the defensive end to go with five blocked shots.

A UNI offense that turned the ball over 39 times with just 19 assists during a pair of road losses last weekend, found efficient play from both of its point guards on this night.

Starter Kennedy Kirkpatrick and Rucker each finished with nine points, and the Panthers tallied 16 assists versus 12 turnovers.

“It was hard to lose the two games,” Rucker said, reflecting on her first conference road trip. “I think that we put good minutes together, but it was just kind of sparingly. We learned that we have to come out for the whole 40 and just play as a team.”

Controlling the tempo, pushing when there are numbers and slowing it down when there aren’t has been a point of emphasis for UNI’s point guards as the offensive remains a work in progress.

“I told them I was going to be really hard on them, having played the position myself,” said UNI head coach Tanya Warren, a former standout point guard for Creighton. “It’s extremely important we get good shots every time down the floor and that’s their responsibility to make sure they’re controlling the tempo.”

While leading for the final 35 minutes, 39 seconds, UNI shot 23 of 69 (33.3 percent) and settled for a 10 of 39 clip from 3-point range.

Rucker sparked a sluggish offense early with a layup, 3-pointer and pair of free throws during a burst that gave her team a 15-8 lead at the end of the opening quarter. After Evansville cut a 13-point deficit to six, Ellie Howell scored a pair of transition layups and Abby Gerrits knocked down a 3-pointer during a 7-0 UNI run to close the first half up 30-17.

The Panthers continued to pull away throughout the final two quarters. Gerrits — who was limited early this season after a knee injury ended her freshman campaign — joined Rucker and Kirkpatrick with a team-high nine points, and 11 UNI players found the scoring column.

Emphasizing more ball movement and the need to sometimes pass up a good shot for a great shot, Warren would like to see her team establish more post touches to serve as a foundation for an offense that hasn’t often clicked on all cylinders.

“Our emphasis today was paint points,” Warren said. “We’ve got to get back to that. We can get the 3 anytime, but we’ve got to understand that we can look inside-out. That’s when we’re at our best.”

Members of this youthful team have embraced the learning curve that accompanies major minutes early into their collegiate careers.

“Coach puts a lot of focus on being aggressive and that will open up shooting and the shots for everyone else around you,” Rucker said. “I think that everyone did that for each other tonight.”

UNI 65, Evansville 41

Evansville Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Lively 36 2-9 1-1 4 4 2 5

Gasper 30 2-8 2-2 9 0 3 7

Miller 36 0-3 0-0 6 0 1 0

Noe 40 3-13 2-2 4 1 1 10

Coffman 29 2-6 4-4 3 0 2 8

Casteel 8 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Jones 10 0-1 0-0 0 0 4 0

Scott 11 4-12 3-5 9 0 1 11

Team 3

Totals 200 13-53 12-14 38 5 14 41

UNI Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Howell 31 3-7 0-0 4 0 1 7

Simon-Ressler 3-5 0-0 3 0 2 7

Kirkpatrick 22 3-9 2-2 4 3 0 9

Morgan 23 2-12 1-7 0-0 5 5 1 5

Maahs 27 2-8 0-0 14 1 2 4

Rucker 19 3-7 2-6 1 4 2 9

Kroeger 11 0-4 2-2 3 2 1 2

Gunnels 3 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 0

Garrison-Nickerson 4 0-1 0-0 0 0 1 0

Wheatcraft 4 2-2 0-0 0 0 0 6

Hillyard 13 1-2 2-2 6 1 3 4

Gerrits 3-11 0-0 2 0 0 9

Robson 3 1-1 1-2 2 0 0 3

Team 2

Totals 200 23-69 9-14 50 16 13 65

Evansville 8 9 9 15 — 41

N. Iowa 15 15 15 20 — 65

3-point goals—Evansville 3-13 (Lively 0-2, Gasper 1-2, Noe 2-8, Jones 0-1), UNI 10-39 (Howell 1-3, Simon-Ressler 1-1, Kirkpatrick 1-5, Morgan 1-7, Maahs 0-1, Rucker 1-4, Kroeger 0-4, Wheatcraft 2-2, Hillyard 0-1, Gerrits 3-11). Blocks—Evansville 2 (Coffman 2), UNI 6 (Maahs 5). Turnovers—Evansville 21 (Gasper, Miller 4), UNI 12 (Rucker 3). Steals—Evansville 6 (Miller 3), UNI 10 (Rucker 3).

Officials—Grinter, Knight, Brost. Att.—1,596.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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