CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa displayed a level of toughness Sunday at the McLeod Center that head coach Tanya Warren hadn’t seen yet.

It came at a good time as the Panthers held on for a 71-63 Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball victory over Southern Illinois after letting a 19-point first-half lead slip away.

The victory moved UNI (11-11 overall, 7-4 MVC) into a third-place tie with the Salukis (12-10, 7-4) and came just a day and a half after losing a fourth-quarter lead in a loss to second-place Missouri State in a loss that left Warren questioning her team’s toughness.

“I thought we showed toughness, whereas on Friday I didn’t think we showed toughness,” Warren said. “I thought we were able to display toughness, especially when they took the lead and that is what good teams are able to do, keep their head up and find a way to bounce back.”

UNI came out strong in the first quarter, holding Southern Illinois to 3-for-12 shooting and not giving up an offensive rebound until 1 minute, 15 seconds were left in the quarter. By that time the Panthers, behind five points from Megan Maahs and four from Rose Simon-Ressler, went up 18-6.

The Panthers out-rebounded the Salukis, 40-25, in the game, including a 17-12 advantage in offensive boards. The 25 rebounds were the fewest allowed by UNI this season.

“We knew they were one of the best rebounding teams in the conference so that was a big emphasis this week just knowing we need to put a big body on them every shot,” said Ellie Howell, who had her ninth double-figure performance of Valley play with 17 points.

Howell got hot to start the second quarter and her inside hoop with 6:24 to halftime gave the Panthers a 27-8 lead. UNI also led 29-10 before the Salukis and Nicole Martin used runs of 8-0 and 5-0 to trim UNI’s lead to just eight at halftime, 34-26.

“I thought the first quarter we were outstanding,” Warren said. “We built a 19-point lead and then got a little complacent. Struggled ... they are a really good team and we knew they were going to make a run.

“But the thing I’m most proud of is when they made their run, we found a way to answer, whether that was a big offensive play or a big defensive stop.”

Southern Illinois was the better team coming out of the half, as 6-foot-1 Kyle Giebelhausen, who had no points at halftime, scored 10 points and helped the Salukis to their first lead of the game at 45-44. Mikaela Morgan hit a 3-pointer to put the Panthers back on top.

“After they went up by one, during a timeout, I told them they’ve knocked on the door now we need to answer and I thought we did a great job of that,” Warren added.

The game was tied 47-47 after three quarters. Martin gave the Salukis the lead but the Panthers took it back for good.

“I was very proud of the toughness we displayed today,” Warren said. “We could’ve hung our heads and said here we go again, but again, held our heads high and found a way to get it done.”

Down the stretch, freshman Karli Rucker scored five key points, two free throws from Kennedy Kirkpatrick with 38 seconds left pushed UNI’s lead to 69-59, and the Salukis didn’t have another run left in them.

The Panthers return to action Friday at Indiana State.

UNI 71, Southern Ill. 63

S. Ill. Mn FG-A FT-A Rb A PF TP

Patrick 18 1-2 0-0 1 3 4 2

Silvey 30 1-5 0-0 3 2 3 2

Brockmeyer 34 3-7 2-3 7 0 3 8

Giebelhausen 39 5-14 3-3 5 3 3 14

Martin 34 9-17 3-5 3 1 2 22

Hawkins 7 1-3 0-0 1 1 1 2

Nelson 23 2-4 2-4 3 4 2 7

Pudlowski 3 0-1 0-0 2 0 0 0

VanHyfte 11 3-4 0-0 0 0 0 6

Hummel 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 0

Totals 200 25-57 10-15 25 14 19 63

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

Howell 32 6-13 2-3 5 3 0 17

Simon-Ressler 15 3-5 0-0 4 2 4 7

Kirkpatrick 23 1-7 6-6 2 1 2 9

Morgan 30 5-7 4-4 0 0 5 16

Maahs 22 2-5 3-3 11 0 4 7

Rucker 19 3-5 1-2 2 4 1 7

Kroeger 6 0-1 0-0 0 1 0 0

Hillyard 25 2-3 0-1 2 3 3 4

Hagen 18 1-4 2-2 8 0 1 4

Gerrits 10 0-3 0-0 2 1 0 0

Team 4

Totals 200 23-53 8-11 40 15 20 71

Southern Illinois 6 20 21 16 — 63

Northern Iowa 18 16 13 24 — 71

3-point goals — Southern Illinois 3-12 (Patrick 0-1, Silvey 0-2, Brockmeyer 0-1, Giebelhausen 1-5, Martin 1-1, Nelson 1-1, VanHyfte 0-1), UNI 7-16 (Howell 3-6, Simon-Ressler 1-2, Kirkpatrick 1-3, Morgan 2-3, Hillyard 0-1, Gerrits 0-1). Turnovers — Southern Illinois 14 (four with 3), UNI 19 (Howell 4). Steals — Southern Illinois 9 (four with 2). UNI 5 (five with one), Blocks — Southern Illinois 5 (Martin 3), UNI 2 (Maahs 2).

Officials — Enlund, Herriman-Camarota, Doberstein. Att. — 1,387.

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