After suffering a 27-point loss to the University of Northern Iowa Feb. 19, the Loyola women’s basketball team (10-7, 8-5) managed to escape Cedar Falls, Iowa with a 66-64 win in overtime in the second game of the back-to-back series against the Panthers Feb. 20.
The Ramblers’ Feb. 20 road victory was the first win at the McLeod Center in program history. Loyola entered the weekend with a 3-13 all-time record against the Panthers and had lost the previous nine matchups.
In the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings before the series, Loyola was No. 136 out of 343 Division I teams. Northern Iowa was No. 74.
Loyola remains in third place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings after splitting the series against the Panthers.
Feb. 19 matchup
The first few minutes of the game were close, with the Panthers narrowly leading Loyola 9-8 with 6:37 left in the first quarter. But Northern Iowa rattled off a 16-4 run to end the period and take a 25-12 lead into the second quarter.
Loyola and Northern Iowa were nearly even in the second quarter. The Ramblers got within seven points of the Panthers at multiple points, but Northern Iowa still went into halftime with a 39-28 lead.
Loyola junior forward Allison Day started the third quarter on an individual 6-0 run, single-handedly cutting the Ramblers’ deficit from 11 points to five points. Later in the quarter, the Ramblers managed to get within a single possession of the Panthers, trailing 41-39 with 5:49 remaining in the period.
A little over a minute later, Loyola was still well within striking distance, down 44-41 with 4:24 left in the quarter. However, the game fell apart for the Ramblers after that point, with Northern Iowa outscoring Loyola 34-10 over the final nearly 15 minutes of the game.
The Panthers led 54-44 heading into the fourth quarter and outscored the Ramblers 24-7 in the final period. Loyola shot 2-for-14 in the final period, while the Panthers went 9-for-16. Northern Iowa ran away with the game to the tune of 78-51.
“I thought we played really hard and we cut it to two, and then I think they made six [three-pointers] and most of those were uncontested threes,” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said after the Feb. 19 loss. “It did get away from us in that fourth quarter, obviously the score reflects that. [It was] not our best performance all the way around.”
Day finished with 16 points for the Ramblers, while Loyola senior guard Bre Hampton-Bey finished with 10 points.
Three Panthers scored in double figures for Northern Iowa, led by junior center Cynthia Wolf’s 13 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard Nicole Kroeger and junior guard Kam Finley scored 11 points each.
One of the biggest disparities in the game came from beyond the arc. Loyola shot just 1-for-14 from three-point territory, while Northern Iowa went 12-for-34 from downtown.
Northern Iowa also got a lot more production off the bench. The Panthers had 42 bench points, and Loyola recorded 14.
Feb. 20 matchup
Northern Iowa jumped out to an early 8-2 lead in the first quarter, but Loyola narrowed the gap and trailed just 11-9 at the end of the period. The Ramblers’ momentum carried into the second quarter.
The Panthers held a 16-14 lead with 7:14 remaining in the second quarter, but Loyola would prevent Northern Iowa from scoring for the rest of the period. Overall, the Ramblers outscored Northern Iowa 18-5 in the quarter and took a 27-16 lead into halftime.
“We got stops, we got a lot of stops,” Achter said about her squad’s second quarter performance. “We held them scoreless for seven minutes. One of our goals coming in was ‘control the pace and tempo.’ We didn’t do that yesterday so we were very deliberate today about walking the ball up and making sure we were set in the half court.”
Achter said this style of offense — which uses most of the 30-second shot clock — can be difficult for defenses to guard, especially if the opposing team is struggling on offense.
After halftime, Loyola and Northern Iowa came out and traded baskets for much of the third quarter. However, the Panthers gained some momentum and ended the quarter on a 7-0 run — with five of those points coming in the final 21 seconds of the period. Loyola still managed to hold a 41-35 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Day hit a jump shot to put Loyola up 48-40 with 6:37 left to play. However, Northern Iowa responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead with just over three minutes remaining.
Day made a layup to put the Ramblers back in front with 2:50 to go — a lead Loyola would hold until the Panthers’ first-year guard Emerson Green hit a jump shot near the free throw line to tie the game at 55 with four seconds on the clock.
The Ramblers came within inches of winning in regulation, but Hampton-Bey missed an unguarded, point-blank shot at the buzzer and the game went to overtime.
In the five-minute period, the teams were tied at four separate points until Rice made the eventual game-winning layup with five seconds left to put the Ramblers ahead 66-64.
Rice finished with 12 points on 3-for-12 shooting in the Feb. 20 matchup. Despite struggling shooting the ball prior to the game-winner, Rice said she tried to put any misses out of her head and just believe the next shot was always going in.
“That ability to [ignore earlier missed shots] has taken me a while,” Rice said. “Knowing that you have an open shot and not taking it is going to be worse for the team than taking the open shot, even if you missed a lot which I had today.”
Day finished with 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds — leading the game in both. Hampton-Bey was the third Rambler to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points for the second night in a row.
After leading all scorers in both games, Achter said she knew coming into the series that Day had an advantage based on how the Panthers’ defended near the basket.
“Teams that we’ve played in the last couple weeks have really focused on Allison because why wouldn’t you, look at her,” Achter said. “We knew that Northern [Iowa] was going to go one-on-one for a lot of it, and we knew where they’d send the [help defender] from, so we were able to prepare for it. … Allison is in complete control of her game right now.”
Loyola is scheduled to play Valparaiso University Feb. 24 at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN3.
Correction: an original version of this article incorrectly placed the University of Northern Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa rather than Cedar Falls, Iowa, and the Ramblers’ all-time record against Northern Iowa coming into the series has been fixed from 1-13 to 3-13. Both errors have been corrected.