CEDAR FALLS — Still searching for consistency on offensive, Northern Iowa continues to take pride in a lock-down defense that figures to place the Panthers back in the hunt among the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball title contenders.

Despite failing to convert 30 percent of its shots through the first three quarters, UNI made MVC newcomer Valparaiso’s trip to the McLeod Center miserable by securing a 77-56 victory Sunday afternoon.

“With a lot of different young parts, the defensive end, there’s a big learning curve there,” UNI junior Ellie Howell said. “This is the perfect time for us to start clicking and that’s really going to help spark our offense.”

The win capped a perfect opening weekend of conference play for a UNI team (6-7, 2-0) that has extended its first win streak of the season to three. The Panthers finished 24 of 68 (35.3 percent) from the field and made up for those misses by frequently getting to the free throw line where they hit 17 of 23 shots.

Howell led UNI with 21 points on 8 of 17 shooting, including a 3 of 6 clip from 3-point range. Center Megan Maahs tallied her fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Six of her rebounds came on the offensive end as UNI burned Valpo’s zone with 22 offensive boards.

“She’s been tremendous all year in terms of what she’s been able to do on the boards,” UNI coach Tanya Warren said, addressing Maahs’ effort. “I wouldn’t trade her for anybody in the conference. I love that kid. She plays every possession as if her life depended on it, and I think our kids feed off that.”

UNI took its first lead with 10-2 run midway through the first quarter, and later added a 10-3 surge to take a 33-22 lead into halftime against a Valparaiso team (7-6, 0-2) that had just one assist and seven turnovers through the opening two quarters.“We didn’t allow whether the ball was going in the hole or not to affect what we were doing defensively,” Warren said.

UNI now braces for a tough MVC road trip. The Panthers travel to face Southern Illinois and Missouri State teams off to 2-0 league starts Friday and Sunday.

UNI 77, Valparaiso 56

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

Meredith 24 4-12 0-0 5 2 1 10

Hamlet 36 2-10 0-0 2 1 1 5

Donchetz 16 0-1 0-0 2 1 5 0

Blood 20 2-5 0-2 3 0 1 4

Franklin 32 6-14 6-7 8 2 3 18

Stoller 7 1-3 0-0 4 0 2 2

Ellenson 12 1-2 3-4 5 0 2 5

Profitt 8 2-5 0-0 2 0 4 4

Konieczny 20 2-4 0-0 1 4 0 5

Hales 24 1-3 1-2 4 0 2 3

Richards 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 3

Totals 200 21-59 10-15 39 10 21 56

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

Howell 30 8-17 2-2 6 5 2 21

Simon-Ressler 19 2-5 3-4 3 1 1 7

Kirkpatrick 34 3-12 0-0 6 6 0 9

Morgan 30 3-16 2-3 5 2 2 10

Maahs 28 2-6 8-9 15 1 3 12

Rucker 6 0-1 0-2 0 1 1 0

Kroeger 17 5-7 2-2 3 1 0 16

Garrison-Nickerson 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Hillyard 22 1-2 0-1 4 2 1 2

Hagen 10 0-1 0-0 3 1 2 0

Gerrits 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 4

Totals 200 24-68 17-23 49 20 12 77

Valparaiso 11 11 17 17 — 56

N. Iowa 14 19 18 26 — 77

3-point goals—Valpo 4-14 (Meredith 2-6, Hamlet 1-6, Konieczny 1-1, Hales 0-1), UNI 12-37 (Howell 3-6, Simon-Ressler 0-2, Kirkpatrick 3-9, Morgan 2-13, Kroeger 4-6). Blocks—Valpo 2 (Meredith, Profitt), UNI 1 (Kroeger). Turnovers—Valpo 13 (Hamlet 4), UNI 10 (Simon-Ressler 3). Steals—Valpo 7 (Donchetz, Blood 2), UNI 6 (Kirkpatrick 3).

Officials—Brost, Matuzewski, Schroeder. Att.—1,368.

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Sports Reporter

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