116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — No. 7 Iowa State survived a nail-biting women’s basketball upset bid at McLeod Center Wednesday night, squeaking its way past Northern Iowa, 88-85.
An 11-point halftime lead disappeared when UNI (2-1) put together a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 76 with just under five minutes to play.
Maya McDermott scored five of her 22 points during the run, leading her own fastbreak into a contested layup and hitting a step-back 3. Grace Boffelli — who led the Panthers with 26 points — scored nine during the run as she routinely worked her way past Iowa State’s Stephanie Soares and Morgan Kane on the low block.
A 3-pointer from Lexi Donarski ended the Panthers’ run and a Soares layup briefly got the Cyclones back in front by three.
UNI answered again, though, as Boffelli mustered up another three-point play, Kam Finley hit a driving layup and McDermott converted a mid-range floater for a two-point lead with 2:14 remaining.
Emily Ryan — who was one of five Cyclones in double figures with 14 points — hit a go-ahead 3 to counter the Panthers’ counter and pushed the lead to three on the following possession with a free throw line jumper.
“We got a couple stops when we had to and that was enough,” Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said. “It felt like a first- or second-round NCAA Tournament game. Sometimes this time of year you’ve got to learn the hard way.”
After a UNI timeout with 1.7 seconds remaining, Kayba Laube’s desperation 3 missed, and the Cyclones (3-0) escaped with their unblemished record intact.
“We executed (the last play) perfectly,” UNI Coach Tanya Warren said postgame. “It was a great look and Kayba will knock that shot down. We’re a very good team. I thought we showed a lot of toughness. At halftime we were down 11 and we just talked about one possession at a time.”
All-American Ashley Joens had a team-high 26 points for ISU, eight more than the 18 combined she scored in her previous two matchups against the Panthers.
“We tried to keep (Joens) on the perimeter more — it’s harder to double team her (there),” Fennelly said. “When she was posting up in the past they’d run all kinds of bodies at her and they play a lot of zone. I think she got a few more clean looks. I told her before the game you gotta shoot 15 3s and she got up 13.”
Soares (23 points), Danae Fritz (12) and Donarski (10) joined Joens and Ryan in double figures.
A back-and-forth first half featured little separation as both teams combined for 14 3s and a 56.4 field-goal percentage.
A 9-2 run by the Cyclones included one of Emily Ryan’s three 3s and a Donarski 3 off an offensive rebound from Nyamer Diew.
Finley and Laube joined McDermott and Boffelli in double figures with 15 and 12, respectively.
ISU hosts Columbia at 11 a.m. Sunday (ESPN+). UNI returns to action Saturday at home against No. 20 Creighton at 2 p.m. (ESPN+).
“As I said on Monday I don’t know when, I don’t know if it’s a couple weeks, I don’t know if it’s three weeks, a month, but this team — if we can stay healthy — this team is going to be very good,” Warren said. “We’re not into emotional victories, but we’re very proud we just went toe-to-toe with the seventh-rated team in the country.”