Missouri State opened the Missouri Valley Conference schedule Friday evening with a 61-54 loss to UNI at JQH Arena in a rematch of last season’s MVC Tournament title game.
The Lady Bears (4-8, 0-1) held UNI (8-4, 1-0) to under 40 percent shooting overall and 5-for-29 from the 3-point line, but surrendered 20 second-chance points on 16 Panther offensive boards and were unable to capitalize on a five-minute UNI scoring drought in the fourth quarter.
MSU entered the final period trailing 44-40, and the teams traded a trio of 5-0 runs to make it 54-45 in favor of the No. 38 RPI-rated Panthers with 6:34 left on the clock. Liza Fruendt hit a 3-pointer and Aubrey Buckley added a free throw for a 54-49 deficit with 5:14 remaining, and the Lady Bears held the visitors off the scoreboard until the 1:30 mark, but managed only a free throw during their next seven possessions to make it 54-50.
A Lexi Hughes layup pulled MSU to 56-52 with 1:05 on the clock, but the Panthers countered with a 3-pointer with 37.8 seconds left and followed with a pair of free throws 11 seconds later to put the game out of reach.
Missouri State led for the first third of the game, but not again after UNI’s first-team all-MVC guard Madison Weekly scored to give the Panthers a 16-15 lead with 6:42 until halftime.
The Panthers led 26-23 at the break, and buried a pair of 3-pointers midway through the third quarter after missing their first 15 attempts to extend the lead to 34-27. Missouri State twice pulled within a basket after that, but were behind by at least two possessions for the balance of the game after UNI went up 38-34 with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
Fruendt scored a game-high 19 points and added nine rebounds for MSU, and freshman Alexa Willard scored 10 points for the second consecutive game. Audrey Holt established career highs with four steals and six blocks, the most for a Lady Bear since Tia Mays stuffed nine shots in a December 2010 game.
MSU hosts MVC preseason favorite Drake (8-4, 1-0) at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Bulldogs won 83-78 at Wichita State on Friday.