Momentum is key for a college basketball team as the regular season winds down and the postseason is set to begin.
After dropping a 88-61 decision Thursday at No. 22 Drake, the Redbirds were able to get back on track and gain some momentum heading into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament as they defeated Northern Iowa 54-53 on Saturday afternoon in Cedar Rapids.
Down 53-52, senior forward Simone Goods cleaned up a Tete Maggett missed jumper to put the ‘Birds in front. Goods, who finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds, also got the rebound to seal the deal for ISU. Maggett added 15 points for the Redbirds.
The win not only meant a season sweep of the Panthers, but also gives ISU sole possession of fourth place in the MVC standings to end the season.
“We told our players it was gonna come down to the wire,” ISU head coach Kristen Gillespie said. “We have so much respect for what Northern Iowa does. We did enough.”
In a back-and-forth affair, a 31-31 tie with 6:34 left in the third was broken by an Abby Gerrits three with 4:23 left in the period. UNI added another trey a couple of minutes later, taking a 37-31 advantage with 2:20 left in the quarter, prompting an ISU timeout.
ISU’s Viria Livingston ended a scoring drought of 4:41 with a lay-in out of the timeout, but still trailed 41-35 heading into the fourth.
A quick 6-0 ISU run to open the fourth quarter tied the game back up at 41-41 with 8:34 remaining. Layups by Megan Talbot and Maggett followed by two Katrina Beck free throws supplied the scoring in the spurt.
The run continued for the ‘Birds, as a three by Maggett, a jumper by Goods and two more free throws by Beck gave ISU a 48-43 advantage with 6:32 left.
The Panthers countered with a 5-0 spurt to tie the game back at 48-48 with 4:50 remaining, and took a 51-48 lead a couple minutes later on a Mikaela Morgan trey.
Two Lexi Wallen free throws with 1:37 remaining tied it once again at 52-52, but Heidi Hillyard added a free throw right back for UNI to make it 53-52. ISU got a defensive stop before Goods won the game with 0:08 remaaining.
“I’m so proud and happy for our seniors,” Gillespie said. “Best finish that we’ve had in a long time, we’ll take it.”
In a low-scoring, defensive-minded contest from the start the teams traded scores throughout. The Panthers broke a 13-13 tie late in the first quarter with five of the next six points, including a three by Gerrits to take an 18-14 lead after one quarter.
The offenses of both teams continued to stall even more into the second quarter, as ISU outscored the Panthers 10-9, still trailing 27-24 heading into halftime. The Redbirds were held without a score for the final 3:08 of the half, and shot just 36.4 percent (8-22) from the field. Maggett had 10 first half points for the ‘Birds.
The Panthers (19-11, 12-6) were led by Nicole Kroeger’s 13 points. Taylor Hagen added 11 points.
The Redbirds (18-11, 11-7) return to action next week in the Hoops in the Heartland tournament at the Taxslayer Center in Moline, Illinois, the MVC postseason tournament. The ‘Birds will face fifth-seeded Bradley Friday for a 2:30 p.m. tip-off.