NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The University of Northern Iowa women's basketball team captured the program's first-ever postseason victory on Thursday evening, riding an offensive outburst to an 83-67 win over Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).
UNI (17-14) advances to play Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the second round of the WBI. Eight teams remain in the tournament field.
Trailing by one point at halftime, UNI exploded for 52 second-half points -- its most points in a half since scoring 53 in the first half against Evansville on Jan. 9, 2010
The Panthers shot 30-of-59 (50.8 percent) for the game - their highest field goal percentage since a win over Chicago State on Nov. 14 of this season. UNI surpassed 80 points for only the fourth time this season, and the Panthers racked up 22 assists to tie their second-highest output of the year.
Senior Rachel Madrigal scored a UNI postseason record 23 points to lead the Panthers' offensive attack. Madrigal also recorded seven rebounds and six assists, while draining 5-of-6 shots from beyond the arc.
Fellow seniors Katelin Oney and K.K. Armstrong had big games as well, as Oney tallied 18 points and Armstrong posted 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Armstrong's seven assists were a UNI postseason record.
UNI connected on 9-of-22 three-point attempts for the game and out-rebounded the Ladyjacks 34-27. Stephen F. Austin (23-10) committed 21 turnovers.
UNI fell behind 23-14 in the game's first 12 minutes but slowly battled back to cut the halftime deficit to one point at 32-31. Madrigal poured in 12 points in the first half.
The Panthers scored the first five points of the second half to take a 36-32 lead, but SFA responded with a 7-0 run to regain the lead. The Ladyjacks led 43-40 with 13:56 remaining when Madrigal drained a trey to start a 9-0 UNI run. UNI's run expanded to 26-7 over the next six minutes, and with seven minutes remaining, the Panthers held a comfortable 66-50 advantage.
UNI stretched its lead to as much as 20, and SFA cut the margin down to 11 with 1:38 remaining, but the outcome was never in doubt as UNI held on for the 83-67 win.
UNI was 0-5 all-time in postseason play entering tonight's game with SFA, including two losses in the NCAA Tournament and three losses in the WNIT.
UNI will travel to Huntsville, Texas, for a second-round WBI matchup with Sam Houston State on Sat., Mar. 17. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. Eight teams remain in the tourney field.