by Ben Adamson
Missouri State players scored at least four points and grabbed multiple
rebounds, and seven had multiple assists Sunday afternoon as the No.
18/20 Lady Bears topped UNI 80-66 for their fifth top-54 RPI win of the
season, improving to 14-2 overall and 4-0 in Missouri Valley Conference
Junior Abby Hipp scored a career-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, Alexa Willard scored 12 and Brice Calip added 11, while Jasmine Franklin had nine points and eight rebounds and Emily Gartner hauled in all 10 of her rebounds in the second half to help MSU move to 8-0 on the season at JQH Arena.
Northern Iowa (9-5, 1-2), ranked 40th in the latest NCAA RPI, got 3-pointers from Karli Rucker on its first and last possessions of the first quarter, and MSU went on a 20-5 run in the nine minutes, 25 seconds between those shots to lead 20-11 after 10 minutes.
After the Panthers closed to 22-16 early in the second period, Sydney Wilson scored five in a row to get the lead back to double digits, Mya Bhinhar threaded a pass to Willard that the senior converted into her 1,300th career point, and Shameka Ealy scored the last four of an 8-0 run for a 41-23 advantage with 2:23 left until halftime.
The Lady Bears committed just one turnover in the first half to lead 45-30 at the break but had three giveaways in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter and didn’t score until a Hipp trey with 5:35 on the clock made it 48-36.
Bhinhar scored four points in a 6-0 MSU run on either side of the third and fourth quarters for a 61-42 lead, and UNI got as close as 10 points late by hitting four of its 12 3-pointers in the game in the final quarter.
Missouri State shot 41.4 percent overall and held the Panthers to 34.4 percent, including just 9-for-30 on 2-pointers. The Lady Bears got seven blocks from six different players, and went to the foul line 27 times compared to 13 for UNI.
MSU dished out 19 assists against a season-low seven turnovers, forced 17 UNI miscues and owned a 47-36 rebounding lead.
Missouri State begins a three-game road swing on Friday, Jan. 17, with a 6 p.m. game at Southern Illinois (9-6, 1-3).