CEDAR FALLS — Behind 69-percent field goal shooting (34-49) Milwaukee ousted Northern Iowa from the first round of the WNIT, 81-67, Thursday night at McLeod Center.
Milwaukee gained its first separation with a 6-0 run to close the first quarter, holding UNI without a field goal for over three minutes to take a 21-16 advantage. After shrinking Milwaukee’s lead to two twice in the second quarter, UNI missed seven consecutive attempts while Milwaukee closed the half on an 8-0 run for a 42-30 halftime lead.
“Everything that we pride ourselves on today, we didn’t do,” UNI Coach Tanya Warren said. “You have to give (Milwaukee) credit. Their three seniors played like they didn’t want to be done. I just don’t feel that we were focused and detailed like we are defensively. We didn’t do what we needed to do early to set the tempo, and they did.”
Warren’s halftime adjustments included a 2-1-2 half-court trap that created six Milwaukee turnovers in the third quarter. However, UNI’s offense struggled to keep up with Milwaukee’s hot shooting, as Jamie Reit and Jenny Lindner led all scorers with 21 and 19 points, respectively.
“We (were) not very focused, and not very attention to detail,” Warren said. “When you allow a team to come in and run and get in a rhythm, game on. That’s what we’ve been able to take away in most games prior to today.”
Rose Simon-Ressler’s jumpshot to begin the fourth quarter brought UNI within eight of Milwaukee, but it was as close as the hosts would get. Despite 23 turnovers, Milwaukee’s field-goal percentage — a new school record — and rebounding advantage was too much for UNI to overcome.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” Warren said. “This is my 11th year and this is the first time anyone’s ever shot 70 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line. Ever. We were able to turn them over, but we weren’t able to create points off of those turnovers and that’s the difference.”
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Simon-Ressler and Megan Maahs led UNI in scoring with 15 and 14 points, respectively. UNI shot 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3.
After losing seven of its first 10 games to start the season, Northern Iowa finishes the 2017-18 season 19-14 overall. The Panthers’ WNIT bid marked the eighth time in the past nine seasons they’ve played in the postseason.
“It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and it was to some degree,” Warren said. “We started to see ourselves get better and gain some momentum in the last six weeks. We were playing really good basketball. Even through Sunday when we lost to Drake. And we’re going to miss (Kennedy Kirkpatrick), she has done some tremendous things for us. But we also have to be excited because we have everybody back to build off of a team that won 19 games. I’m extremely proud of what this team accomplished.”