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MOLINE, Ill. — The UNI Panthers are one win away from returning to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for the first time since 2017.
Northern Iowa beat Missouri State, 63-57, on Saturday at the TaxSlayer Center as part of “Hoops in the Heartland,” the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
“Its great, its amazing,” UNI junior guard Kam Finley said on the Panther Radio Network. “I’m excited to get this opprotuntiy with the seniors. I just want to pull out the win for them.”
UNI (22-9) plays in the MVC championship Sunday against Illinois State (18-13), which upset top seed Southern Illinois, 50-42, in the other semifinal. Tipoff is 1 p.m. (ESPNU).
It is the first time a 3-seed (UNI) faces a 4-seed (ISU) for the MVC title.
The Panthers trailed the Bears 45-41 at the start of the fourth quarter. Karli Rucker started a 14-0 run with a layup. Bre Gunnels then got a steal, which led to a 3-pointer by Finley.
It was a big 3. UNI only made three 3-pointers, which tied a season-low.
Missouri State (24-7) rallied and tied the game back up at 55-55 with 2:05 to play.
Finley made a pair of foul shots with 1:39 to play and then with 28 seconds to play. Grace Boffeli and Gunnels also hit a pair of foul shots in the final 22 seconds. UNI was 16 of 19 from the free-throw line (84.2 percent).
“It’s just you and the basket,” Finley said. “I just tell myself it is going in. I want to be the person that knocks down that shot.”
Karli Rucker led UNI with 18 points and five assists. Boffeli had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Gunnels had 13 points and eight rebounds. Finley also had 13 points.
“We definitely wanted to get another shot at Missouri State,” Finley said. “We didn’t play well at their place (a 66-57 loss). We stayed confident and true to our game.”