Panther women upset #1 seed Illinois State to advance to MVC final - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Panther women upset #1 seed Illinois State to advance to MVC final

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ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI -- The University of Northern Iowa women's basketball team scored the final four points of the game to defeat top-seeded Illinois State 61-59 in the semifinal round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Saturday night at Family Arena.

With the Panthers (16-15) trailing 59-57, Lizzie Boeck hit a three from the left wing to put the Panthers in front by one. Erin Brocka came up with a blocked shot with eight seconds remaining to protect the Panther lead, and she made the first of two free throws to give the Panthers the 61-59 advantage. Illinois State's Amanda Clifton took a shot at the buzzer to attempt to tie the game, but it would not fall, sealing the win for UNI.

The win advances the Panthers the MVC Tournament final for the first time in program history.

Boeck led the Panthers with 16 points, and Brocka finished with 14. Brocka and Boeck each finished with seven rebounds for UNI. K.K. Armstrong came off the bench to tally 10 points and five rebounds for the Panthers.

Nicole Clausen scored nine points, and her three in the first half gave her sole possession of the UNI record for threes in a career, with 203. She also surpassed the 1,000-point mark in the first half, making her the 18th Panther to reach that milestone.

Nicolle Lewis led Illinois State (24-7) with 20 points. Ashleen Bracey finished with 14, and Maggie Krick and Amanda Clifton finished with 11 and 10, respectively.

Leading 8-7, the Panthers used a three-point play and jump shot from Armstrong and a three from Brocka to go on an 8-0 run and build a 16-7 lead with 11:50 on the clock. Nicole Clausen hit a jumper at 9:28 to give the Panthers a 22-11 lead. The Panthers advantage stayed between seven and 11 points until Bracey hit a three with 30 seconds on the clock to cap a 6-0 ISU run and bring the score to 32-27. Lizzie Boeck answered with a three with two seconds left to send the Panthers into the break in front, 35-27.

ISU used threes from Clifton and Bracey to trim the Panther lead to 35-33. UNI was able to stretch its lead back to five, but at 11:49 Lewis converted a three-point play to give the Redbirds a 43-42 advantage.

Katie Broadway scored to extend ISU's lead to 45-42, but Boeck hit a three from the left baseline to tie the game, 45-45 with 9:05 on the clock.

With the score tied 49-49, Brocka hit a jumper and Armstrong drained a three to give the Panthers a 54-49 lead with 6:22 to play. Illinois State scored six straight points to reclaim the lead, 55-54 with 4:12 remaining.

Boeck made three of four free-throw tries to give UNI a 57-55 edge, but Bracey hit a jumper with 2:08 on the clock to tie the game for the eighth time.

Lewis hit a long jump shot with 1:25 left to put ISU in front, 59-57. Brocka found Boeck open on the wing, and the junior connected for her third three of the game, giving UNI the one-point advantage.

Krick could not get a jumper to fall for the Redbirds, and Danielle Wubbens collected the defensive rebound. UNI could not capitalize on the other end, however, giving ISU the ball down one with 20 seconds left.

Shala Jackson appeared to have an open shot on the block for the Redbirds, but Brocka came in for the block and grabbed the defensive rebound with eight seconds left. ISU sent Brocka to the line, and the junior connected on the first try. Her second attempt rimmed out, and Bracey grabbed the rebound. ISU was unable to connect on the game-tying shot, however, sealing the win for UNI.

The Panthers shot 24-of-56 (42.9 percent) from the floor, including 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) from behind the arc. UNI finished 7-of-11 (63.3 percent) from the free-throw line.

Illinois State shot 23-of-49 (46.9 percent) from the floor, including 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) from three-point range. The Redbirds were 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) from the free-throw line.

The Redbirds held a 32-27 rebounding advantage. UNI committed a season-low five turnover in the game, resulting in six points for ISU. UNI turned Illinois State's 13 turnovers into 14 points. ISU scored nine second-chance points, while the Panthers turned seven offensive rebounds into seven second-chance points.

The Panthers return to action on Sunday when they face Creighton in the final at 2:35 p.m.

Online reporter Mark Woodley

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