CEDAR FALLS — Before its loss this past Saturday to Loyola Chicago, Northern Iowa was playing some of its best basketball of the season.
In the three games before their loss to the Ramblers, the Panthers (10-10, 7-6 MVC) had won two of their three previous games, averaged just 12 turnovers and shot 95 percent (39-41) from the free-throw line.
So, with only five regular season games remaining, UNI women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren is anticipating more consistency from her team down the stretch. Beginning Wednesday, when the Panthers host Drake (12-10, 10-5) at 6 p.m. (ESPN3).
“I’m excited to see how we respond (to the Loyola loss),” Warren said. “Everybody is in the same boat with the back-to-back games. It’s as much mental as it is physical. We have to rise to the occasion. If we want to accomplish some of our goals that we’ve set for ourselves, the basketball is back in our court and that’s where you want it.”
UNI lost its first game against the Bulldogs, 96-79, at Knapp Center on Jan. 27. The Panthers struggled with ball security and 3-point shooting, committing 18 turnovers and going 8-for-30 (27 percent) from distance.
The challenge against Drake likely is to be even tougher this time for UNI despite playing at home. Bulldogs senior guard Maddie Monahan and sophomore forward Maggie Bair have recently returned to Coach Jennie Baranczyk’s lineup from injuries and the duo averages 12.3 and 6.9 points per game, respectively.
“They make you do some things defensively in terms of playing you to your weaknesses,” Warren said. “They offensive rebound. They always have five kids on the floor that can shoot the 3. They do a terrific job of creating mismatches on the offensive end.
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“We’re going to have to be ready to play from start to finish in every facet of the basketball game.”