ST. CHARLES, Mo. (Courtesy Evansville Media Relations) The University of Evansville women’s basketball team scored nine of the game’s first 11 points on Friday night, and the Purple Aces never looked back, as Evansville cruised to a 79-56 victory over Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals of the 2008 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Charles, Missouri.
Evansville exploded for nine points in the game’s first 2:15 to grab an early 9-2 lead. After Northern Iowa would trim the lead back to as few as three points, 17-14, with 8:07 to play on a jumper by Danielle Wubbens, Evansville would respond by going on an 18-4 run over the next eight minutes to take a 35-20 lead into the halftime locker room. UE senior guard Rebekah Parker would lead the first-half charge, scoring 11 of her 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds to pace the attack.
In the second half, junior forward Robyn Jennings and the Purple Aces’ three-point shooting took over, as Jennings scored 17 of her career-high 19 points after halftime while not missing a shot, and Evansville went 7-for-8 from three-point range to cruise to victory.
“I’ve never had a night like this,” said Jennings. “I did not even know that I was 8-for-8 until after the game. The coaches just told me to continue to look for my shot, and I did and after a hit a couple to start the second half, I just continued to keep shooting.
“It feels great to have a night like this tonight, because I definitely want to keep playing in this tournament.”
“Robyn did a great job sparking us in the second half, but the key tonight for us was our defense,” said UE head coach Tricia Cullop. “Our defense really helped us set the tempo for this game, and that was huge.
“In our first two games with Northern Iowa, we got into a slow-down game and were walking the ball up the court, and that is not our game. Tonight, with Northern Iowa playing a game already last night, I really wanted to us to get up defensively and try to force turnovers and push the ball in transition. We were able to do that tonight, and it really paid off.”
Evansville’s defense was able to force Northern Iowa into 23 turnovers thanks to 12 steals. UE turned those 23 turnovers into 33 points, as the Purple Aces held a decisive 33-6 edge in points off of turnovers.
Jennings led all scores with 19 points in just 19 minutes of action on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the floor. Parker joined her in double-figures for Evansville with 16 points, while juniors Shannon Novosel and Ashley Austin both pitched in 10 points apiece. In all, nine different Purple Aces scored in the contest, with six of them scoring seven points or more.
Freshman center Lizzie Boeck led Northern Iowa with 15 points, while sophomore guard Nicole Clausen added 14 points on the strength of 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Evansville held UNI to just 24.0 percent shooting from the perimeter (6-for-25), while going 11-for-21 from three-point territory on the night (52.4 percent). The Purple Aces also went a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line to tie a school and tournament record for accuracy.
With the victory, Evansville improves to 20-10 on the season and posts its first 20-win season since 2000. Northern Iowa, meanwhile, concludes its season at 13-18 overall. The Purple Aces will now advance on to face the winner of the No. 3 Drake Bulldogs (20-9, 13-5 MVC) and the No. 6 Indiana State Sycamores (14-14, 8-10 MVC) in Saturday’s State Farm MVC Tournament semifinals at Family Arena in St. Charles. Tip-off is set for 3:37 p.m. and tomorrow’s game can be heard live on 91.5 F.M.-WUEV and seen live throughout the Midwest on Fox Sports Midwest.