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Belmont hands UNI women’s basketball first MVC loss
Panthers fall behind, rally, but end up losing at home
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa nearly overcame an afternoon of cold shooting, but ultimately was dealt its first Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball loss of the season, 67-61, to Belmont on Sunday at McLeod Center.
Trailing 34-23 at halftime, Maya McDermott — who finished with a game-high 19 points — delivered a pair of three-point plays to trim the Bruins’ lead to seven midway through the third quarter.
McDermott’s play-making eventually helped spark a 10-2 run by the Panthers (8-5, 3-1) in the fourth quarter, that included a 3 and jump shot from the sophomore point guard to get within one at 55-54 with 5:50 remaining.
A Madison Bartley layup and Destinee Wells jumper put the Bruins back in front by five, but a brief switch to an extended zone defense provoked a 7-0 UNI run that featured a three-point play and corner 3 from Emerson Green for a 60-59 lead.
Belmont (7-8, 3-1) answered again, though, finishing the game on a 7-0 run that began with a Sydni Harvey 3 while the Panthers only created one field goal attempt — a missed 3 by McDermott with 50 seconds remaining.
“I thought our start was good. Honestly, I thought we did a pretty good job of defending,” UNI Coach Tanya Warren said. “The ball didn’t fall and they went up 11. We didn’t quit.
“We dug ourselves out of a hole (and) got back in it. You got to give (Belmont) credit.”
The hole UNI dug itself out of came late in the first quarter and throughout the second.
After scoring 10 points in the first 1:32 of the game, the Panthers scored just 13 the remaining 18:28 of the first half, which included a nearly six-minute long scoring drought.
Nine points from leading scorer Grace Boffeli — which tied a season-low — put pressure on UNI’s backcourt throughout the game, particularly during its second-quarter struggles when the sophomore forward sat the remaining 9:33 of the half with two fouls.
“They (double teamed) her every time she put it on the floor,” Warren said. “They had a lot of hands there and that’s an adjustment (Boffeli) will make. There’s no doubt about it. She’ll bounce back. (Belmont) did a terrific job of making sure whenever she grabbed the ball they had several people around her.”
With UNI’s leading scorer on its bench, the Bruins put together an 11-2 run to end the half. The Panthers finished the game 18-of-58 (31 percent) from the field and 7-of-24 (29 percent) from 3.
“I like the confidence level of this team. I like the perseverance of this team. I think this team is very resilient,” Warren said. “We’re just going to continue to get better and better. It didn’t go our way today — that’s OK. So, we can’t hang our heads for too long.”
Green joined McDermott in double figures with 17 points.
UNI returns to action Wednesday at Drake (8-4, 3-1) for a 6 p.m. tip at Knapp Center (ESPN+).