CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa leaned on its defense and came up with just enough offense to hold off Iowa State, 57-53, in women’s basketball Tuesday night at McLeod Center.
Headed into the fourth quarter leading 40-36, UNI had kept the Cyclones offense out of sync with its man-to-man defense, holding them to 15, 8 and 13 points in each of the first three quarters.
“They’re very scout-oriented. Very, very physical,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “(They) ran us off some stuff. But, we missed seven free throws. They don’t guard the free throw line. We missed some shots we need to make, obviously, but they play with good pace. They understand how they’re going to guard.”
Kennedy Kirkpatrick combined with Ellie Howell to score 12 of the Panthers’ 17 in the final quarter. The duo hit six of UNI’s seven 3-pointers in the game, keeping gaps open in Iowa State’s zone defense with their perimeter production.
“There were lots of gaps in (Iowa State’s) zone and we were able to just kind of figure that out after they were in it for awhile,” UNI senior guard Ellie Howell said. “We knew we could get it to the high-post and kick it out, or dive. We were just seeing open gaps and really being able to flow from there.”
Megan Maahs and Taylor Hagen produced for UNI out of that high-post position, scoring eight and 11 respectively. Maahs — who grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds — hit the game-clinching free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining after Bridget Carleton — who led all scorers with 18 points — missed a driving layup on Iowa State’s final possession that would have tied the game.
“We knew the ball was going to be in her hands,” Warren said. “(We) were just going to try to make her make a tough play. We were going to send two (defenders) at her, which we did. And we just talked about being able to go get a tip. One stop, we need one stop. We talk a lot about that in practice and were able to come up with it.”
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UNI’s win was its first over Iowa State since 2002, snapping a 15-game losing streak to its in-state rival. Tuesday’s game also marked the first time Fennelly coached against his son, Steven, who is a first-year assistant for UNI.
“Be honest with you, I’m not a really good loser,” Fennelly said. “It’s probably a little easier knowing Steven won. We haven’t lost to UNI in 15 years, it must be him. No, I’m just joking, that’s proud dad. (Head) coach (Tanya) Warren and (associate head) coach (Brad) Nelson have done such a nice job with him. Proud of him and what he’s doing and now hopefully they’ll root for us just like we’ve been rooting for them. It’s the family business, and unfortunately the family business was competing today.”
UNI (1-1) is back in action a week from Tuesday when it travels to Omaha, Neb., to take on Creighton (1-1), Warren’s alma mater.