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CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa struggled to put Southern Illinois away until a strong closing run carried the Panthers to a 65-53 Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball win at the McLeod Center Friday.

UNI (18-7, 6-2) built a 23-8 lead in the second quarter, only to see the Salukis (10-9, 3-5) charge back to get within 28-23 with a minute left in the first half. The Panthers got a layup from Mikaela Morgan and an Ellie Howell free throw over the final :42 for a 31-28 halftime advantage.

Southern scored the first five points of the second half and trailed just 31-28 before UNI erupted for a 14-2 run ignited by a Morgan 3-point basket.

However, that 45-30 lead was just 46-39 by the end of the third quarter after the Salukis closed with a 9-1 spurt.

Southern got within 46-42 early in the fourth quarter, but Howell and Morgan combined for seven straight points to make it 53-42 and the Salukis didn’t get any closer than seven points the rest of the way. Howell finished with 18 points to lead UNI while Morgan had 12 and Karli Rucker 11. Defensively, the Panthers held Southern to 38 percent overall shooting and just 3 of 15 from 3-point range while forcing 17 turnovers.

UNI hosts league-leading Missouri State (12-7, 8-0) today. The Lady Bears snapped Drake’s 47-game MVC winning streak Friday, 85-79.

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UNI 65, Southern Ill. 53

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (10-9, 3-5) — Patrick 1-9, 1-2 3, Silvey 6-13 7-7 20, Nelson 3-4 0-2 8, Brockmeyer 1-3 1-2 3, Martin 4-8 0-0 8, Claussen 0-0 0-0 0, McCallister 1-4 0-0 2, Hartman 3-7 0-0 6, Pudlowski 0-0 0-0 0, VanHyfte 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 20-53 10-15 53.

NORTHERN IOWA (18-7, 6-2) — Rucker 4-8 3-4 11, Howell 6-11 4-6 18, Gunnels 1-3 3-3 5, Morgan 3-9 4-6 12, Hagen 3-4 1-4 7, Kroeger 0-5 0-0 0, Iverson 0-0 0-0 0, Wolf 0-0 1-2 1, Hillyard 2-5 1-2 7, Gerrits 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 20-47 19-29 65.

S. Illinois 6 17 16 14 — 53

N. Iowa 12 19 15 19 — 65

3-point goals — Southern Illinois 3-15 (Patrick 0-2, Silvey 1-3, Nelson 2-2, Martin 0-1, McCallister 0-2, Hartman 0-3, Van Hyfte 0-2), UNI 6-17 (Rucker 0-1, Howell 2-3, Gunnels 0-1, Morgan 2-5, Kroeger 0-4, Hillyard 2-3). Rebounds — Southern Illinois 33 (Patrick 7, Martin 7), UNI 29 (Rucker 6, Hagen 6). Assists — Southern Illinois 8 (Patrick 3), UNI 10 (Morgan 4). Turnovers — Southern Illinois 17 (Patrick 4, Silvey 4), UNI 15 (Gunnels 5). Blocks — Southern Illinois 2 (Brockmeyer 1, Pudlowski 1), UNI 4 (Hagen 2). Steals — Southern Illinois 10 (Nelson 3, Van Hyfte 3), UNI 9 (Howell 4). Total fouls — Southern Illinois 29, UNI 19. Fouled out — Patrick, Nelson, Brockmeyer. Technical foul — Patrick. Att. — 1,175.

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