116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS - After a frustration-filled regular season, the Northern Iowa women's basketball team is enjoying a deep postseason run to the WNIT semifinals.
While the Panthers (17-12) would rather be making their run in the NCAA tournament, getting to play this far into the postseason - after a season filled with change because of COVID-19 - has lifted the spirits of the entire team, according to Coach Tanya Warren.
'It's been so much fun,” Warren said. 'When you stop and think about all that these young women - and the student athletes across the board - have had to sacrifice with all the testing and being in a bubble and not being able to eat with your teammates on the road, there's so much that you've had to change and the perseverance and the discipline and the sacrifices that these young people across the country have made is remarkable.”
The Panthers' WNIT run began last Friday with a first-round win over Dayton. A day later, UNI sneaked past Creighton, 64-63, on a game-winning layup from Emerson Green. On Monday, UNI sailed into the semifinals in Memphis, Tenn., against Ole Miss with a 58-50 win over St. Louis.
Junior guard Kam Finley was named region MVP after averaging 15.3 points per game and was joined on the region's all-tournament team by senior forward Megan Maahs, who averaged 10.7 points in the three wins.
'What you appreciate about Kam is she's scored in a variety of ways,” Warren said. 'She's hit the 3, she's hit the dribble jump shot. When her 3 wasn't falling she found a way to get herself to the rim and to get herself to the free-throw line.
'Megan has been outstanding. Just to have an opportunity to continue to play with her and for her, I think, has lifted this team.”
Beyond what Finley and Maahs have contributed, Warren said managing runs has been the key to winning seven of the last eight games after not winning three in a row until earlier this month.
'If we get out to a quick start, and a team starts to make a run, we've done a very good job of coming out of timeouts and either getting a stop or scoring,” Warren said. 'We've had some key people make some key buckets at key times and we've been able to come up with key stops.”
Ole Miss (14-11) enters Friday's 7 p.m. matchup (streaming on FloHoops) against UNI on a similar hot streak, having won five of its last six games.
The Rebels are led by Shakira Austin, a member of the Lisa Leslie Award top-10 list who averages 18.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
'They're going to press. Get up and pressure the basketball,” Warren said. 'They have (Shakira Austin) that's more of a face-up (big) that plays more like a guard. We're definitely going to have to run some (double teams) at (Austin) and try to get her to make some tough decisions with a lot of hands around her. If we can take care of the basketball and rebound I like our chances.”