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CEDAR FALLS — Poise was the word University of Northern Iowa women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren echoed from the sideline Tuesday night after North Dakota made a late run at her Panthers inside the McLeod Center.

Perhaps no player defined poise more on this night than senior Mikaela Morgan, who converted a pair of free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining to set the final score of a 64-60 UNI victory.

Morgan finished a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe and knocked down a pair of timely 3-pointers as part of her team-high 17-point effort.

“It’s something that helps my shot, shooting free throws before we practice,” Morgan said. “I just knew they were important free throws and just had faith that I could knock them down.”

It took plenty of poise for UNI (5-3) to hold off a North Dakota team (2-5) that was eight points better when they met a season ago in Grand Forks, N.D. The Panthers were missing a valuable piece of the puzzle after all-conference center Megan Maahs came up limping with a knee injury less than two minutes into the game.

Maahs left to the trainer’s room, but returned briefly late in the first quarter, before she was subbed out for good.

“It hurt our confidence,” Warren said, addressing the loss of Maahs, who will be evaluated on Wednesday. “We lost a lot of poise.

“One of the things I talked to them about at halftime is, ‘I understand how you feel when you see a teammate go down. The fact of the matter is we still have a game to play. Everybody needs to step up and do a little bit more.’”

While fifth-year senior guard Ellie Howell admitted Maahs’ injury took her team’s attention away from the game, she knew it would be important for everyone to regain their focus.

“You’ve got to stay together and remind each other that we have each other’s backs,” said Howell, who scored all 13 of her points in the second half.

UNI began to regroup just prior to halftime. The Panthers went on an 8-1 run over the final three minutes to take a 30-25 lead into intermission. First-year starting point guard Karli Rucker was a key weapon at the end of each half.

Rucker scored off a drive on UNI’s final possession of the second quarter, and after North Dakota cut a 10-point late third quarter deficit to two points with 1:03 left in the fourth, UNI’s point guard answered by finding a tough angle to the hoop for a layup with :27 remaining.

“Karli is doing a great job,” Warren said of Rucker, who finished with 12 points on 50 percent shooting. “You’re talking about a young lady that’s playing the point guard position that played 10 to 12 minutes a game last year and has now been given the reins to lead this team. As she continues to understand the flow, dictating the tempo, the when, the where, the who, she’s going to continue to be tremendous.”

Defensively, UNI was challenged by North Dakota’s 6-foot-2 senior Lexi Klabo. Smooth in the paint with an accurate jumper, Klabo finished just one point shy of her season average with 21 points. Klabo’s final points came on a pair of free throws after Rucker’s layup before Morgan answered from the line on the ensuing possession with 8.7 seconds to play.

The Fighting Hawks battled foul trouble throughout this contest, and had three players foul out. UNI held a 38-32 rebounding advantage, led by seven from sophomore Bre Gunnels in her second career start.

“We knew that they were going to come in here aggressive,” Morgan said. “They always play aggressive against us. We just had to be confident and take care of the ball.”

The Panthers now have a lengthy break before returning to action on Dec. 16 at Iowa.

UNI 64, North Dakota 60

N. Dakota Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Morton 25 3-7 1-2 3 1 5 7

Dooley 11 1-5 0-0 5 0 3 2

Reinke 13 2-3 0-0 0 0 5 5

Strand 38 2-4 0-0 2 3 4 5

Klabo 36 7-13 6-6 7 1 3 21

J. Jarnot 14 2-2 2-2 3 0 3 8

Dailey 9 1-5 0-0 0 1 1 3

Leet 6 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 0

Orth 14 1-3 0-0 5 2 5 2

A. Jarnot 1-3 1-2 2 1 0 3

Fleecs 12 2-7 0-2 3 1 1 4

Team 1

Totals 200 22-54 10-14 32 10 30 60

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

Rucker 37 5-10 1-2 3 1 2 12

Howell 32 4-12 4-6 6 0 3 13

Gunnels 15 1-5 0-0 7 1 1 2

Morgan 31 3-7 9-9 1 3 2 17

Maahs 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Kroeger 5 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0

Finely 3 0-3 0-0 0 0 0 0

Simon-Ressler 7 2-2 0-0 3 0 1 4

Wolf 10 1-4 2-2 2 0 1 4

Hillyard 16 1-1 0-0 0 0 3 2

Hagen 23 1-5 0-2 5 2 4 2

Gerrits 19 2-4 3-4 3 1 1 8

Team 8

Totals 200 20-55 19-25 38 8 18 64

N. Dakota 11 14 14 21 — 60

N. Iowa 13 17 17 17 — 64

3-point goals — North Dakota 6-14 (Reinke 1-1, Strand 1-1, Klabo 1-2, J. Jarnot 2-2, Dailey 1-3, Orth 0-1, A. Jarnot 0-2, Fleecs 0-2), UNI 5-17 (Rucker 1-2, Howell 1-4, Gunnels 0-2, Morgan 2-4, Finely 0-1, Wolf 0-3, Gerrits 1-1). Blocks — North Dakota 8 (Klabo 4), UNI 4 (four at 1). Turnovers — North Dakota 18 (Dooley, Klabo 4), UNI 16 (Hagen 4). Steals — North Dakota 3 (three at 1), UNI 6 (Morgan 3).

Officials — Napier, Daley, Hermmiman-Camarota. Att. — 1,201.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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