Poor shooting plagues Panthers in home finale

CEDAR FALLS – The Northern Iowa women’s basketball team missed 40 shots, got out-rebounded by seven and never quite got over the hump against Illinois State on Saturday afternoon.

The Redbirds led by five at halftime and that was enough to claim a win as Illinois State downed Northern Iowa, 66-61, at the McLeod Center on Panther Senior Day.

Amber Kirschbaum scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds and Jacqui Kalin chipped in 13 points, six rebounds and four assists in her final game in the purple and yellow.

The Panthers though hit 22-of-62 from the floor and made just 6-of-21 from long range in the loss. Illinois State (21-9, 13-5) connected on 47 percent from the floor and made four 3-pointers in seven attempts.

Northern Iowa (15-15, 10-8) did not score a fastbreak point. Illinois State’s largest lead of the game was 15 points and that came with 7:36 on the clock.

The Redbirds were led by Janae Smith’s 16 points and five boards, while Jamie Russell added 15 points and eight rebounds. The third player in double-figures was Alexis Jenkins and she finished with 14 points and grabbed six boards.

The game was tied at 7 early following a 3-pointer by Kalin. It remained a tight game throughout the first half. Illinois State eventually went up five at halftime but did not gain more than a one-point advantage until the final five minutes.

Illinois State continued its run of momentum in the second half and eventually went up by double-digits until former AGWSR star Jess McDowell canned a 3-pointer to make it 57-49.

A 10-2 run by Northern Iowa, sparked by hustle plays from Hannah Schonhardt and Kirschbaum, cut the Illinois State lead to two with less than a minute remaining.

The Redbirds made two free throws with 12 seconds to play to go up 64-58. The Panthers cut the deficit to three following a 3-pointer by Schonhardt.

Illnois State made its final two free throws and Northern Iowa failed to get off a shot attempt in the closing seconds.

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament begins Thursday at Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo. The Panthers will have a first-round bye. They will take on fifth-seeded Indiana State (18-11, 10-8) at 2:36 p.m. Friday.