CEDAR FALLS — University of Northern Iowa women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren calls this upcoming stretch of games between semesters the WNBA season.
“They literally sleep, practice and play,” Warren said during Monday’s weekly press conference. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get better.”
UNI (5-4) is coming off an 83-57 loss to No. 16 Iowa Sunday in Iowa City. The Panthers host Minnesota State-Mankato Wednesday and Omaha Friday before traveling to Kansas State Dec. 29 in the final game before the start of conference play.
These upcoming weeks in Cedar Falls will include community service activities in addition to plenty of bonding time as the Panthers attempt to grow together on and off the court.
“You don’t have to worry about the academic piece, you just worry about getting better as a basketball unit, individually and collectively,” Warren said. “It allows us to watch a lot of film and then go back on the floor and try to improve.”
UNI’s coach was still watching film from the Iowa game Monday morning before her focus shifted to Minnesota State.
True freshman forward Cynthia Wolf of Cedar Falls was among the players who stepped up in the Panthers’ first game following all-conference center Megan Maahs’ season-ending knee injury. Wolf converted 3 of 5 attempts from 3-point range and finished with 11 points and a blocked shot over 14 minutes.
“Cynthia Wolf did a terrific job as a freshman of being thrown into the fire against one of the best post players in the country (Iowa’s Megan Gustafson),” Warren said. “She shot the 3 well and she battled.”
UNI senior starters Mikaela Morgan and Ellie Howell struggled on offense, shooting a combined 1-for-16 from the field.
“Those two work so hard defensively that sometimes it takes a little of their legs on the offensive end,” Warren said. “I have to do a better job of being able to get them in and out and get them rested so that we can have a little bit more legs down the stretch.”
WRESTLING: UNI coach Doug Schwab was pleased with his team’s immediate reaction to Sunday’s 21-14 loss against No. 8 Cornell in the Panthers’ first home dual of the season.
“I can’t say that I like when guys are disappointed, but I like that it hurts them a little bit,” Schwab said, after Cornell silenced the West Gym crowd by winning four of the final five matches. “The thing is how we respond to it and how we move forward. Do you learn from it and get better?”
Among the wrestlers who stepped up Sunday was Waterloo native Tyrell Gordon. The true freshman secured a 3-2 win over Cornell’s Jake Taylor at 197 after having his redshirt removed.
“It was really cool to see the group of kids around him after the meet,” Schwab said of Gordon. “Hopefully like (former Iowa State national champion Kyven Gadson) was for him, they’ll want to be like that guy. ... A guy like him and how he represents not just Waterloo East, but UNI, that can only help the sport grow over there. I can’t sing his praises enough.”
UNI will return to action Dec. 29 and 30 at the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Illinois.