CEDAR FALLS — After a crucial conference women’s basketball game slipped away from Northern Iowa’s grasp down the stretch, Tanya Warren didn’t mask her frustration.

UNI’s 11th-year head coach questioned her team’s mettle following Friday night’s 57-52 loss to second-place Missouri State inside the McLeod Center.

“It was extremely frustrating,” Warren said after UNI committed 20 turnovers, two shy of the season-high 22 that occurred during a 62-52 road loss to the Bears on Jan. 7. “I think they out-toughed us.”

The Panthers (10-11, 6-4 MVC) were shooting a season-high 50 percent from the field and held a 46-42 lead one minute into the fourth quarter, before losing their shooting touch and going scoreless over a pivotal five-minute period down the stretch. Missouri State (12-9, 8-2) pulled in front with an 8-0 run and made enough free throws to hold off UNI.

It was a bizarre game at times, as UNI built a nine-point lead late in a first quarter that Warren characterized as one of her team’s most complete of the season.

Quickly it turned. Missouri State guard Danielle Gitzen banked in a half-court runner at the buzzer for three of her game-high 14 points to cut the Bears’ deficit to six.

UNI then surrendered three offensive rebounds before Missouri State scored on its first possession of the second quarter. Four consecutive UNI turnovers later, Missouri State held a 22-17 advantage as Aubrey Buckley’s traditional three-point play capped a 14-point run.

“This team has not shown an ability to respond when things don’t go our way,” Warren said. “From that point on, we turned the basketball over at a rapid rate, we made silly mistakes.”

Among UNI’s personnel woes was a struggle to find productive minutes in the frontcourt. Foul trouble limited double-double machine Megan Maahs to two points and two rebounds through 16 minutes. Reserve Heidi Hillyard went scoreless with three turnovers in 16 minutes off the bench, forcing Mikaela Morgan to play out of position at the four, where she wasn’t as familiar with the team’s sets.

Despite those struggles on offense, UNI’s defense still held Missouri State 16 points below its conference average.

With the game beginning to slip away in the second quarter, UNI’s defense kept MSU scoreless for a key 4:29 stretch, and the Panthers scored the final eight points of the first half to draw even at 27 on Ellie Howell’s buzzer-beating, mid-range jumper.

Howell finished with a team-high 11 points, point guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick added 10 and reserve Abby Gerrits chipped in 10 off the bench for UNI. But, while Howell felt her team responded well at times, not enough plays were made in crucial moments of the fourth quarter.

“They’re physical, they’re handsy, they’re not a bad defensive team,” Howell said. “But we can’t turn the ball over 20 times against anybody — no matter how good of a defensive team they are. ... It just wears on you not getting the shots off.”

With each team making 21 field goals, Missouri State’s 19 free throw attempts proved key as UNI only generated six attempts from the line.

“You can’t go 4-for-6 from the free throw line at home,” Warren said. “That was an emphasis, to get to the free throw line.

“I thought their defense forced us east and west instead of north and south. They wanted it more.”

With another tough test looming Sunday against a Southern Illinois team that defeated the Panthers earlier this season in overtime, the program’s emphasis of moving on from the previous game by midnight will be put to the test.

“We have some tough kids, we’ll be able to respond,” Howell said. “We’ve just got to get into the mindset that it’s the next game. The midnight rule, we need to be serious about that and we have to get ready tomorrow.”

Missouri St. 57, UNI 52

Missouri State Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Gitzen 33 5-7 3-4 5 3 1 14

Fruendt 35 4-16 2-5 5 1 0 12

Calip 25 1-6 2-2 4 2 4 4

Buckley 31 2-6 4-7 5 1 3 8

Willard 26 2-8 0-0 4 0 0 5

Ruffridge 8 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2

Polowy 10 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0

Hipp 9 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0

Ealy 4 1-3 0-0 1 0 0 2

Gartner 19 5-6 0-1 5 1 1 10

Team 2

Totals 200 21-53 11-19 33 8 11 57

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

Howell 33 5-11 0-0 1 0 1 11

Simon-Ressler 23 2-6 1-2 4 3 3 6

Kirkpatrick 35 4-8 0-0 3 3 1 10

Morgan 32 2-8 0-0 2 3 2 4

Maahs 16 1-3 0-0 2 0 4 2

Rucker 7 0-1 3-4 1 1 0 3

Kroeger 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Hillyard 16 0-0 0-0 2 3 2 0

Hagen 20 3-5 0-0 7 1 3 6

Gerrits 16 4-6 0-0 3 0 0 10

Team 7

Totals 200 21-48 4-6 32 14 16 52

Missouri St. 11 16 13 17 — 57

N. Iowa 17 10 16 9 — 52

3-point goals—MSU 4-15 (Gitzen 1-1, Fruendt 2-9, Calip 0-1, Willard 1-3, Ealy 0-1), UNI 6-13 (Howell 1-3, Simon-Ressler 1-3, Kirkpatrick 2-2, Morgan 0-1, Rucker 0-1, Gerrits 2-3). Blocks—MSU 0, UNI 2 (Howell, Hagen). Turnovers—MSU 15 (Gitzen, Willard 3), UNI 20 (Kirkpatrick 5). Steals—MSU 12 (Gitzen, Buckley 3), UNI 8 (Morgan 3).

Officials—Mattingly, Del Duco, Brost. Att.—1,406.

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Sports Reporter

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