Despite a late fourth quarter surge, the Loyola women’s basketball team (10-11, 4-6) fell to the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) 71-65 at Gentile Arena Friday night.
Loyola sophomore forward Abby O’Connor picked up her fifth double-double of the season in the effort, tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds. First-year guard Janae Gonzales led the team with 20 points, going 8-for-17 from the field and 4-for-11 from beyond the arc.
“[Gonzales has] got so much swagger and confidence in herself,” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said after the game. “She just pull things out of a hat sometimes. She’s a fantastic player, and I can’t wait for her to continue to grow.”
UNI — which ranked second in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) preseason poll — came into game with a 6-3 record in the MVC play and 13-8 record overall. Despite the win, the Panthers remain in third behind Drake University and Missouri State University.
“If we had another three minutes, it might’ve been a little bit more interesting,” Achter said. “I thought today, our group got better. I thought our fourth quarter was better. I thought our execution down the stretch was better.”
The first quarter was close as both teams had an aggressive offense. Loyola went 9-for-17 from the field, but only 2-for-6 beyond the arc. Impressive showings from Gonzales and O’Connor carried the Ramblers into the next quarter tied 20-20.
UNI sophomore guard Nicole Kraeger went 3-for-3 on three-pointers in the second quarter to help the Panthers pull away from Loyola. The Ramblers had a 40 percent shooting percentage from the field and failed to make a single three. Loyola headed into halftime down 40-32.
The distance grew between the two teams as Loyola tallied six turnovers in the third quarter, allowing UNI to capitalize. The Ramblers only made six shots in the first half, while the Panthers hit 10 to take a 57-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
“If we had another three minutes, it might’ve been a little bit more interesting.”Kate Achter, Loyola head coach
Although the Ramblers were able to create some action in the final quarter, they were still unable to pull ahead of UNI. Loyola cut a 19-point lead down to a six-point difference with less than a minute left of the game, but eventually fell 71-65.
“Major takeaways [were] we need to defend the arc better,” Achter said. “We need to find ways to get to the free throw line more. I really liked how hard we were attacking the basket we just couldn’t quite get the pay out.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to play Drake University on Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. at Gentile. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.