MOLINE — The Illinois State women's basketball team limped to the finish of the first quarter Friday at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after two key Redbirds picked up their second fouls.
When Northern Iowa's Mikaela Morgan banked in a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to open the second-quarter scoring, the signs were indeed ominous for ISU.
Morgan's answered prayer ignited a sizzling second quarter for the Panthers, and the Redbirds never recovered in a 56-36 quarterfinal loss at the TaxSlayer Center.
"We needed to put the ball in the basket to have a chance," said ISU coach Kristen Gillespie, whose team shot a dismal 20 percent from the field (10 of 50). "We didn't do that."
The sixth-seeded Redbirds closed their most successful season since 2013 at 14-16. No. 3 UNI (18-12) tangles with Missouri State in a 4:02 p.m. semifinal Saturday.
"I give our kids credit. They went down fighting," Gillespie said. "I told Paige (Saylor) walking out that we are never going to score 36 points in a game again. Things are changing, and I'm just so proud of this team."
ISU leading scorer Simone Goods picked up her second foul at the 1:31 mark of the opening quarter. When Goods went to the bench, Megan Talbot was whistled for her second at the nine-second mark.
Both were called back into action in the second quarter as the Panthers began to pull away. Two straight Megan Maahs inside buckets extended the UNI lead to 20-9.
That margin grew to 29-13 on a pair of Maahs free throws 2:28 before halftime.
Goods (nine points) and Viria Livingston (seven) scored all but two of ISU's points as the Redbirds retreated to the locker room saddled with a 32-18 deficit.
The Panthers gunned in 8 of 11 second-quarter shots and were 7 of 10 from 3-point range in the second and third periods combined.
"We knew Megan Maahs was a handful so we tried to double and dig off her. That got some of their shooters loose," said Gillespie. "We knew if this was a game where their kids shot well from the 3-point line it was going to be very challenging for us to win."
The Redbirds' woes worsened early in the third quarter when Goods was called for her third foul at the 8:46 mark and her fourth eight seconds later.
Meanwhile, ISU just couldn't get its offense untracked. Saylor's 3-pointer at the 2:32 mark of the third quarter was the Redbirds' first successful venture from beyond the arc in 12 attempts. ISU finished 1 of 15 from 3-point range.
"They banked in shots and scooped in shots, and we couldn't hit open shots," lamented Gillespie.
Limited to 15 minutes of playing time, Goods paced ISU with 10 points. Livingston contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
"It seemed like everything was going well for them. So we tried our best to play through it even though we weren't getting calls," Livingston said. "I wasn't pleased with the outcome, but I'm proud of our team."
Hannah Green hit just 1 of 12 shots from the field. ISU's lone senior had five points, six rebounds and three blocks.
"We knew it was a tough matchup," said Green. "Some nights things just don't go your way. As long as we kept fighting through it, and that's what we did."
Maahs paced UNI with 15 points and Kennedy Kirkpatrick had 10. The Panthers outrebounded ISU, 38-33.