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CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa head coach Tanya Warren couldn’t wait to tell her team what she thought of their performance Sunday afternoon against the University of Iowa.

Warren gathered the Panthers in a circle at center court following postgame handshakes and offered praise for the work they put into a dominant, 88-66 victory over the Hawkeyes in front of a crowd of 3,255 fans split in UNI and Iowa apparel.

“I just told them that I was extremely proud of them,” Warren said, following her first victory over Iowa since taking over UNI’s program in 2007. “I thought their preparation was very good leading up to this game. More than anything else, I just told them how much I loved them and how proud I am.”

UNI (4-0) emphatically snapped a 12-game losing streak to its intrastate rival with its third-ever series win over the Hawkeyes (2-1).

The Panthers scored on their opening possession when Bre Gunnels tallied an offense rebound as part of her game-high 11 boards and then knocked down a 3-pointer. UNI never trailed from that point forward, building a 14-point lead by intermission and continuing that pace throughout a second half in which the Panthers led by as many as 30.

This marked a major reversal from a series in which Iowa had won the last five games by at least 15 points.

“UNI played really well and they played really focused the whole way through,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “Everything that we tried to do, I thought they found an answer for and made us pay.”

UNI’s depth shined.

Sophomore Kamryn Finley’s game and career-high 20 points paced a Panther bench that outscored Iowa’s reserves, 52-22. UNI won without a single point in 22 minutes from starting point guard Karli Rucker, who led the team with an average of 20 points through its previous three games.

“As I told these guys when we started this summer, we have the potential to have eight, nine start, don’t get caught up in that,” Warren said, assessing a team that she stated has more depth than any she’s coached. “Stay in the ‘we’ mentality because when the opportunity presents itself, be prepared.

“It says a lot when you have the ability to come off the bench with a Kam Finley, with Abby Gerrits, kids that can make plays and make shots, and know that when you go to your bench there’s not going to be a dropoff. We’ve preached all along about balance, and I think you’re seeing that at its finest.”

UNI finished the game 31 of 59 from the field and 10 of 26 from 3-point range with Gerrits and Nicole Kroeger each dropping in three from distance. The Panthers surpassed 20 points in each quarter.

Gerrits opened with an efficient eight points in the first quarter. Finley was nearly unstoppable off the drive during an 11-point second quarter. Kroeger tallied 10 points in the third quarter, and reserve guard Kristina Cavey scored 12 points in the fourth stanza.

“It builds trust when you know that making the extra pass, they can hit the shot or getting it in to the post, they can get good shots,” Gerrits said, after nine different Panthers scored.

Finley has emerged as a key leader in UNI’s potent second unit.

“My confidence has definitely gotten a lot better,” Finley said. “You learn a lot just sitting on the bench.

“You have all these amazing teammates here that have your back. They get me the ball whenever I’m open. I’ll get them the ball when they’re open. It’s a back and forth process and this is why I love this team.”

Finley’s leadership and passion helped inspire a team that played with plenty of emotion and intensity throughout this game.

“This year I think she’s really stepped up,” Gerrits said. “You can tell in games and in practice.”

Iowa returned just two starters and graduated national player of the year Megan Gustafson from last season’s Elite Eight run. Makenzie Meyer led the Hawkeyes with 14 points, but shot just 4 of 16 from the field. Kathleen Doyle finished 3 of 14 shooting for nine points.

“Right now Kathleen and Makenzie are carrying the whole weight of the world on their shoulders,” Bluder said. “They need to be able to relax and play a little more free.”

UNI 88, Iowa 66

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

Ollinger 26 4-9 0-0 10 1 5 8

Czinano 21 3-5 0-4 4 0 4 6

Ma. Meyer 37 4-16 4-6 3 3 3 14

Sevillian 25 3-7 1-1 1 2 0 7

Doyle 30 3-14 2-5 4 2 3 9

Martin 23 1-4 6-9 4 2 2 8

Marshall 16 1-3 0-0 0 0 1 3

Warnock 8 2-4 0-0 4 0 1 5

Taiwo 5 1-1 0-0 1 0 0 2

Cook 6 1-2 2-2 2 0 0 4

Meyer 2 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0

Ramos 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 3

Totals 200 23-65 25-27 36 11 19 66

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

Gunnels 24 1-3 4-6 11 2 4 7

Maahs 23 3-5 2-2 5 0 2 9

Rucker 22 0-4 0-0 3 3 0 0

Kroeger 19 5-7 0-0 0 0 2 13

Simon-Ressler 15 2-5 3-3 1 1 0 7

Finley 20 8-13 3-3 1 1 2 20

Wolf 12 0-2 1-2 3 2 2 1

Cavey 18 6-7 1-2 3 2 1 14

Hillyard 10 0-2 0-0 4 0 5 0

Gerrits 22 5-7 2-2 1 0 1 15

Morgan 6 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 0

McCullough 1-2 0-0 0 1 2 2

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

Team 6

Totals 200 31-59 16-20 39 12 21 88

Iowa 12 19 20 1566

N. Iowa 21 24 23 2088

3-point goals – Iowa 5-16 (Ollinger 0-2, Ma. Meyer 2-6, Sevillian 0-1, Doyle 1-4, Marshall 1-2, Warnock 1-1), UNI 10-26 (Gunnels 1-3, Maahs 1-1, Rucker 0-1, Kroeger 3-5, Simon-Ressler 0-2, Finley 1-4, Wolf 0-1, Cavey 1-2, Hillyard 0-2, Gerrits 3-4, McCullough 0-1). Blocks – Iowa 1 (Warnock), UNI 2 (Maahs, Rucker). Turnovers – Iowa 11 (Doyle 5), UNI 11 (Rucker 2). Steals – Iowa 4 (Ma. Meyer 2), UNI 5 (five at 1).

Att. – 3,255.

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