Ball St. bottles up Panthers in WNIT

MUNCIE, Ind. – For the first time in more than a month, Northern Iowa couldn’t buy a bucket.

Ball State played lock-down defense throughout the second half, stifling the Panthers to advance to the round of 16 in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament with a 53-48 win Sunday at Worthen Arena.

Northern Iowa’s standout senior guard Jacqui Kalin was the only player to reach double figures for the Panthers, but her late attempt at a tying 3-pointer was under duress and Ball State (17-15) finished off the victory at the free-throw line.

Nathalie Fontaine had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead Ball State, which will face the winner of tonight’s game between Illinois State and Kansas State in the next round. Brittany Carter added 16 points and six boards for the Cardinals, who used defense to make it through the first round as well.

Ball State held down a Minnesota team averaging 70 points per game in a 54-51 WNIT opening-round win in Minneapolis.

The Cardinals limited UNI to 29.8 percent shooting from the field, with Kalin going 4-for-15 and 3-of-12 from 3-point land.

The Panthers were 9-for-35 as a team from 3-point territory yet led by as many as nine after three straight treys from Kalin, Brittni Donaldson and Mercedees Morgan put UNI in front 37-28 with 13:29 remaining in the game.

Ball State took its first lead since the early going when Carter hit a jumper inside the final minute, 49-48, and free throws the rest of the way got the Cardinals into the next round. Northern Iowa was held scoreless for the final 3 minutes, falling to 17-17 to end the season.

Donaldson finished with nine points and five rebounds off the bench, Stephanie Davison added seven points while Morgan and Jen Keitel both contributed five points. Former AGWSR High School standout Jess McDowell was held scoreless, going 0-for-4 from the field with three rebounds.

Ball State outshot UNI by a substantial margin at the free-throw line, as the Cardinals went 19-for-26. Northern Iowa was 5-for-5.

This marked the eighth time this season the Panthers were held to 53 points or fewer – all losses. It was the sixth time UNI shot less than 30 percent from the field, but the first time since Feb. 8 at Wichita State. The Panthers had scored at least 61 points in every game since.