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UNI women’s basketball tries to turn page to WNIT after losing late lead in MVC tournament championship
Panthers host Kansas City in 1st round Thursday
CEDAR FALLS — The pain of losing its late lead in Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship hasn’t subsided, but Northern Iowa women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren said her team is equipped to pick itself up and relish its next opportunity.
The Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“We’re disappointed, but not devastated,” Warren said. “It was an extremely hard postgame talk (Sunday), probably the hardest of my career to be quite honest. Extremely emotional for a variety of reasons, but we’re competitors, we’ve been through similar things and been able to pick ourselves up.
“So I expect nothing less from this team.”
The Panthers (22-10) host Kansas City (23-8) Thursday at 6 p.m. at McLeod Center in the WNIT first round (ESPN+).
The Roos finished third in the Summit League and are led by a pair of seniors in guard Naomie Alnatas and forward Brooklyn McDavid.
Alnatas — a first team All-Summit League selection — finished second in the league in points per game (18.5) and first in assists per game (5.4). She’s also one of only 27 Division I players to register a triple-double this season.
“She’s terrific. She’s extremely athletic, she’s fast, she’s very good off the bounce, she can shoot the 3 and she makes those around her better with her ability to distribute the basketball,” Warren said. “You’re not going to be able to stop her, you just have to be able to try to contain her.”
McDavid, also an All-Summit League first-team honoree, stands 6-foot-1 and averages 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
“She’s as athletic as we’ve seen all year long and we’ve seen some pretty good athleticism,” Warren said. “She shoots the turnaround (jump shot) well, she can score in the paint over either shoulder (and) just has a lot of bounce in her game. We’re going to have to try to make her touches tough. We’re going to have to try to force her off her spot. Then, obviously, we’re going to have to bring some double teams.”
While the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament lingers, UNI’s WNIT bid does offer a consolation that includes the opportunity for seniors Karli Rucker, Nicole Kroeger and Bre Gunnells to play at least one more game at McLeod Center.
That’s not lost on Warren.
“Yesterday, I’m going to be very honest, we had a little bit of that hangover which I expected,” Warren said. “It’s an opportunity for us to play at home in front of our fans. But, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to play in the postseason. I expect us to come out and play with a great amount of energy and effort. Today was much better than yesterday and I expected that.”