CEDAR FALLS — Despite holding Iowa State’s Ashley Joens to a season-low six points, Northern Iowa came up short Tuesday night’s women’s basketball game at McLeod Center, 67-61.
Karli Rucker’s driving layup with 6:17 to play got the Panthers within a possession at 59-57.
Over the next six minutes though, UNI (3-3) made only one of its eight field goal attempts, converted two of four free throws and committed two costly turnovers to sink its chances of a comeback win.
“We battled. I was extremely pleased with our defense. I thought we did a lot of good things,” UNI head coach Tanya Warren said. “Our offensive execution — we have to become more efficient. It showed. It really hurt us.”
Trailing by six with just over a minute to play, Joens made what was arguably her biggest plays of the game, drawing a charge on Bre Gunnels’ drive to the basket and stealing the ball from Rucker one possession later.
“First of all let me say this — Ashley Joens is an All-American,” Warren said. “She is as good as they come offensively. Our only hope was to contain her and I thought we did a terrific job with that. I thought our traps were good and extremely effective.”
After receiving her second foul with 2:02 to play in the first quarter, Joens sat on coach Bill Fennelly’s bench the remainder of the half and the Panthers were unable to take advantage, trailing 31-29 at halftime.
The senior All-American’s six points snapped a 35-game double-digit scoring streak. Warren was pleased with her team’s defensive effort, led by Gunnels, who drew the one-on-one assignment.
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“My mindset was kind of the same as last game defending a player that can do a little bit of everything. So, not necessarily stopping her, but making everything hard,” said Gunnels, a senior forward.
Free throws also played a large role in the games. Iowa State (4-3) finished 16 of 17 while UNI was 16 for 24.
Warren also acknowledged that Lexi Donarski’s game-high 19 points and Kristin Scott’s 18 were a consequence of deciding to focus their efforts on limiting Joens.
“You have to pick your poison,” Warren said. “Donarski is terrific. And she did a great job of getting herself to the free throw line. Then I thought Scott was very, very good. I thought she created some problems with us in terms of what she was able to do offensive rebound wise (and) with put-backs. Again, I think Iowa State has the potential to do some damage in the Big 12. They have a terrific team.”
Cynthia Wolf and Rucker led UNI with 12 points apiece while Gunnels joined the pair in double figures with 11.
UNI returns to action at 2 p.m. next Wednesday at South Dakota State (4-2). Iowa State hosts Kansas State (5-2) in a Big 12 opener at 6 p.m. Friday (ESPN+).