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UNI women’s basketball heads to WNIT wondering what could have been
Panthers came up short in MVC semifinals, host Colorado State on Thursday
CEDAR FALLS — Coming up short in last weekend’s Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball tournament still stings, but the Northern Iowa Panthers are working at not hanging their heads.
The Panthers (22-9) wrapped up the regular season in second place in the MVC and fell short in the semifinals of the conference tournament, 69-62, to Belmont last Saturday.
“Extremely proud of our young women and the season we had,” UNI Coach Tanya Warren said. “Our NET Rank ended up 62, so we're right there. We’ve been right there all year long. Then, to have an opportunity to play in postseason play — I think this is the 14th year out of (my) 16 seasons — says a lot about this program.
“We’re going to do everything we can in the WNIT.”
Another encouraging, yet bittersweet, part of UNI’s season was being able to look back on a schedule that proved equipped to have provided an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Warren said this week that just two more wins during non-conference play would have been enough to go dancing.
“Six out of the nine teams on our non-conference schedule are in the NCAA tournament,” Warren said. “You win one, you’re in the conversation. You win two, you’re probably in. There’s a lot we’ll probably use as billboard material going into the summer.”
While the Panthers are making sure to not lose sight of the success they have had this season, a daunting WNIT field awaits.
UNI’s first-round opponent, Colorado State (22-9, 16-4), finished third in the Mountain West and boasts the MWC player of the year in senior point guard McKenna Hofschild. Hofschild led the MWC with 20.7 points and 7.2 assists per game.
If the Panthers get past the Rams, they’ll either face a reunion with MVC foe Missouri State (20-11, 14-6) or Nebraska (16-14) — the first Big Ten team left out of the NCAA tournament.
“What we have to be able to and have the maturity to do is pick ourselves up — which we’ve been able to do all year long — and control what we can control,” Warren said. “We have (the) opportunity to still be playing, which a lot of teams would still love to be playing.
“When you look at this field of the WNIT, you better not feel sorry for yourselves too long, or you will be going home very quickly. It’s an opportunity not only to continue to play, but get momentum for a very young team going into next season.”
UNI hosts Colorado State at McLeod Center Thursday night. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. (ESPN3).