Two teams that have suffered key injuries and early season struggles meet in Cedar Falls on Friday night for the early lead in the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball race as UNI hosts Drake.
The Panthers lost standout forward Jen Keitel to a season ending knee injury in December and suffered through a six game skid but coach Tanya Warren’s team has opened the Valley race with four wins. “We’re playing well on both ends of the floor, I really like what we are doing offensively and we’re getting great contributions from a number of different players,” Warren says.
Warren says way the Panthers have jelled well on offense, including shooting the 3 and finding lots of ways to score while sharing the basketball.
Warren says defense will be the key against the high-scoring Bulldogs. “They push the basketball extremely well, they love the 3 ball, but they are also doing a very good job of scoring in the pain this year, so we are going to have to pick our poison, but we can’t let them get easy baskets in transition,” Warren says.
Drake lost reigning Valley player of the year Kyndal Clark to a knee injury in their opener and started 0-3 but have rebounded with a 4-0 Valley start. Much of the reason is the play of sophomore Lizzy Wendell, who leads the conference in scoring at just under 23 points per game. Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk says Wendell has done a great job and so has Kaitlyn Ingle and she says they both are sophomores, so the future is bright. She says Clark’s injury caused a leadership gap which has now been filled by those two.
Baranczyk says a key for the Bulldogs will be improvement on the defensive end as she says they have to do a better job rebounding and keeping the other teams off the free throw line.
The Bulldogs are 9-6 overall and the Panthers are 8-7.