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College women's basketball: UNI freezes against MVC favorite Missouri State
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COLLEGE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

College women's basketball: UNI freezes against MVC favorite Missouri State

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CEDAR FALLS – Additional time provided Northern Iowa little help with the tall task of trying to knock Missouri State off the top of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Following a near month-long layoff due to COVID-19 protocol, the MVC defending champion and Sweet 16 qualifier from the most recent NCAA women’s basketball tournament wasted little time demonstrating its recipe for success.

Missouri State’s lengthy defenders collapsed on Northern Iowa inside and the Panthers struggled early and late to connect from the perimeter during a 70-51 McLeod Center home loss Friday night.

“I’m at a loss for words with our ability to shoot the basketball,” UNI coach Tanya Warren said after her team shot a season-low 27.9% from the field. “I thought we played extremely scared the first quarter. You can’t do that against good teams. They’re way too good.”

These teams were originally slated to meet on New Year’s Day, before COVID forced Missouri State to halt its schedule. The Bears (5-2, 1-0 MVC) were 26th in Associated Press Poll voting this week after a nonconference slate highlighted by a win over current No. 9 Maryland.

Senior guard Brice Calip and junior center Jasmine Franklin provided the Bears with the poise of veteran leaders. Whenever a UNI team (6-6, 3-2) that entered the night in a three-way tie atop the league standings made a run, Missouri State had an answer.

Calip finished with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and defensive stats of three steals and a blocked shot. Franklin added a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds to go with four steals.

“Calip is terrific,” Warren said, assessing one of the league’s top players. “We went from not guarding her, her sophomore year to being unable to guard her, her junior year. She’s off to a terrific start her senior year. She embraces physicality and she can shoot 3 and get to the rim. Very good mid-range dribble jump shot and she likes the challenge.”

UNI’s coach, however, thought her team did enough on defense to give itself a chance. The lack of offensive execution was her primary source of frustration.

Point guard Karli Rucker paced the Panthers with 11 points in the aftermath of her career-high 32-point showing against Valparaiso. None of Rucker’s teammates scored more than six.

UNI’s trio of seniors Nicole Kroeger, Bre Gunnels and Megan Maahs combined to shoot just 4-15 from the field. The Panthers turned the ball over 21 times.

Facing a MSU team that entered Friday holding its opposition to 33.7% shooting, Northern Iowa made just two of its first 24 shots from the field. Missouri State took its largest lead, 30-13, after Calip dove to the deck for a turnover and found Iowa’s all-time high school leading scorer Elle Ruffridge for 3.

“We just have to have some confidence,” Rucker said. “We shot it really well this week in practice so when we get those wide open shots, we’ve got to be able to knock them down and we’re capable of that.”

Over the final four minutes of the second quarter, UNI’s offense finally began to find answers. Freshman reserve Kayba Laube knocked down a deep 3-pointer and Maahs and Rucker added 3’s. Cailyn Morgan put back a miss from the corner on UNI’s final possession of the half to cut the deficit to 36-24 entering intermission.

Rucker pushed the tempo for UNI and the Panthers began to unlock the paint during the third quarter. Following a pair of her free throws, Rucker found Wolf for a layup and Kam Finley located Bre Gunnels for a basket inside as UNI cut its deficit to six, 48-42, with 1:57 left in the stanza.

Calip responded with a personal 4-0 run and Iowa City native Paige Rocca was left open to answer Finley’s 3-pointer to give the Bears a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

UNI missed its first eight shots of the fourth quarter and Missouri State quickly pulled away.

“A lack of toughness,” Warren said, addressing what prevented her team from continuing the success on offense it found over the middle two quarters. “I thought we played a little me ball in the fourth quarter.

“They do a good job of helping. They strong side dig. When you get in there, you’ve got to be able to shot fake and kick out because they collapse. I thought we took some forced shots there in the fourth quarter.”

The series between these teams concludes at 4 p.m. Saturday back in the McLeod Center.

Missouri State 70, UNI 51

Missouri St. Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Calip 29 7-15 5-6 6 6 2 10

Ruffridge 33 3-5 0-0 1 2 1 8

Wilson 26 1-5 0-0 9 4 3 2

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Franklin 21 4-9 2-2 13 0 1 10

Hipp 20 3-10 1-1 1 2 3 7

Jackson 14 1-8 0-0 20 4 2

Winslow 3 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 0

Rocca 9 1-3 0-0 0 0 0 3

Bhinhar 28 4-8 1-2 5 4 1 12

Gartner 17 3-7 0-1 3 1 2 6

Totals 200 27-70 9-12 44 19 17 70

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

Gunnels 19 2-6 1-2 7 0 1 5

Rucker 26 3-9 4-4 5 5 1 11

Green 20 2-5 2-3 3 1 1 6

Kroeger 13 0-1 0-0 1 1 1 0

Maahs 20 2-8 0-0 4 0 1 5

McDermott 13 0-5 1-2 2 0 0 1

Gyamfi 5 0-1 2-2 2 0 1 2

Finley 17 1-3 0-0 3 1 4 3

Morgan 18 1-6 2-2 4 0 1 4

Laube 12 2-4 0-0 0 1 0 5

Wolf 20 3-7 0-0 3 2 1 7

Barney 3 0-1 0-0 2 0 1 0

Boffeli 1 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2

Totals 200 17-61 12-15 45 11 16 51

Missouri St. 20 16 19 15 – 70

N. Iowa 7 17 21 6 – 51

3-point goals – MSU 7-14 (Calip 1-1, Ruffridge 2-3, Wilson 0-2, Hipp 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Rocca 1-2, Bhinhar 3-4), UNI 5-27 (Gunnels 0-1, Rucker 1-1, Green 0-2, Kroeger 0-1, Maahs 1-5, McDermott 0-3, Gyamfi 0-1, Finely 1-3, Morgan 0-2, Laube 1-3, McCullough 0-1, Wolf 1-3, Barney 0-1). Blocks – MSU 7 (Jackson 3), UNI 9 (Maahs, Finley 3). Turnovers – MSU 13 (Bhinhar, Gartner 3), UNI 21 (Rucker, Green 5). Steals – MSU 13 (Franklin 4), UNI 4 (four at 1).

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