SEATTLE, Wash. - The University of Northern Iowa women's basketball team earned a spot in the championship game of the Women's Basketball Invitational with a hard-fought, 68-64 road win over Seattle University on Wednesday night at the Connolly Center.
UNI overcame deficits in nearly every statistical category to top the Redhawks. The Panthers were outrebounded 52-34, committed three more turnovers than Seattle, and attempted 12 fewer shots and 19 fewer free throws. However, UNI drained 10-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc to pull out the victory.
UNI (19-14) also overcame foul trouble to get the win, with junior forward Amber Kirschbaum and sophomore forward Jess McDowell each fouling out in the second half. McDowell finished with a career-high nine rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
Seattle (20-12) opened an early 7-2 lead, but Oney responded with the first of her six three-pointers to get the Panther offense started. UNI trailed again at 22-18, but consecutive three-pointers by Brooke Brown and Oney put the Panthers up 24-23. UNI used seven points in the final 2:05 of the first half - including another Oney trey - to hold a 32-25 halftime lead.
The Redhawks trimmed the Panthers' lead to four points at 34-30 with 17 minutes left in the game, but UNI responded with a quick 10-2 run. Freshman Brittni Donaldson capped the run with a three-pointer to give the Panthers a 44-32 lead with 13:38 to play.
Seattle scored six straight points to get within six, but UNI once again answered with a 10-2 run to open up its largest lead at 54-40 with 9:50 left in the second half.
At that point, Seattle scored 13 straight points over five minutes to pull within one at 54-53. UNI senior K.K. Armstrong connected for a tough, fall-away jumper in traffic to hold onto the lead, and UNI would never give it up.
Seattle cut the lead to one once more at 58-57, but Madrigal made buckets on back-to-back possessions to give the Panthers a five-point cushion at 62-57 with 2:18 to play. When the Redhawks pulled within two again at 62-60, Madrigal hit a driving layup with 1:08 on the clock to stretch the lead back to four.
Down 66-63, Seattle missed three shots at the offensive end before connecting on 1-of-2 free throw attempts. Oney drained two free throws with six seconds to play, icing the victory at 68-64.
Madrigal scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half and played 40 minutes for the seventh time this season. She has played 35 or more minutes in 12 straight games. Madrigal also chipped in five rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
Oney poured in six three-pointers for the third time in her career, coming up one short of the UNI single-game record of seven.
Madrigal and Armstrong tied the school's all-time games played record, as each made their 127th appearance in the Purple and Gold.
UNI shot 23-of-52 (44.2 percent) for the game and limited Seattle to 18-of-64 shooting (28.1 percent). The Redhawks shot 41 free throws - nine more than any UNI opponent had attempted this season - and made 26.
UNI will meet the winner of the Minnesota/Manhattan semifinal in the WBI championship game. Minnesota and Manhattan play on Fri., Mar. 23, at 7 p.m. in Minneapolis. Location, date and time of the WBI title game will be determined following that semifinal contest.