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MVC Tournament: Top-seed Wichita State eliminates UNI, 56-42

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ST. CHARLES, Mo. | The women from Wichita State can play angry, too.

Any hopes Northern Iowa had of upsetting the top-seeded Shockers during Saturday's semifinal in the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament was dismissed by a defensive effort the Panthers couldn't help but applaud.

Wichita State held UNI to season lows in 3-pointers (3), field goal percentage (25) and points, and advanced to Sunday's championship game in Family Arena, 56-42.

"I think they're probably one of the best defensive teams in the history of the Missouri Valley," UNI coach Tanya Warren said, praising a team that will be pursuing a third consecutive MVC tournament title to complement its third straight regular-season crown.

Not only did Wichita State (28-4) enter this game with the league's top defense, MVC Player of the Year Alex Harden characterized Saturday's game against UNI as her squad's best 40 minutes on the defensive end all season.

Harden pointed toward a first half in which the Shockers held UNI to 12 points on Jan. 30 in Cedar Falls as her team's best half of basketball this year.

"It's do or die time," Harden said, addressing her team's postseason mentality. "It's a totally different mindset. You have to give every inch of your body."

UNI's top scorer Madison Weekly had no breaks on offense as she was often face-guarded on every possession. She finished with a team-high 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting, and none of her teammates hit more than two shots from the field.

"They're up on you and they can keep the ball in front of you," Weekly said. "It's tough having to work for every bucket you get."

While UNI had connected on at least four 3-pointers in every game this season, Wichita State coach Jody Adams set a goal of limiting the Panthers to four or fewer. Her team also disrupted UNI's ball movement, holding the Panthers to 13 of 52 field goals on only five assists.

"UNI is very well-coached, versatile and a very disciplined team," Adams said. "They want to run their sets, they run multiple sets, and we wanted to take those sets away by pressing, by jumping through different defensive packages at them, and giving them different looks. Then we made them make individual plays."

Despite UNI's offensive woes, the Panthers put together a strong defensive effort of their own. Wichita State hit just 1 of 14 3-pointers and UNI came up with seven steals. Harden led Wichita State with 18 points and nine rebounds. Forward Kelsey Jacobs added 12 to go with six assists.

Lengthy scoring droughts put UNI down 12 points at halftime and 17 early in the second half before the Panthers missed an opportunity to shift momentum. Following a Wichita State technical foul, UNI had a chance to trim its deficit to eight points with 15 minutes remaining, but missed 3 of 4 free throws.

"Playing against a great team when you get those momentum plays you've got to take advantage of them," Warren said. "We weren't able to do that tonight."

The loss likely caps a 17-14 season for UNI, unless it were to receive an at-large WNIT bid as a fourth-place team from the Missouri Valley Conference. A campaign filled with the adversity of losing two returning starters for the year to injury still ended up being the program's sixth consecutive winning season.

"I'm really going to take some time to reflect on this season and what this group has accomplished," Warren said. "I could not be more proud of a group of young people in terms of what they've been able to overcome."


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