Turnovers in the second half doomed the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team's upset bid Thursday night.
The Redhawks led host Northern Iowa by a point at halftime, but the Panthers ran away in the second half for the 62-42 victory in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Southeast (1-7) shot 43.5 percent from the field to build the one-point lead at the break. The Redhawks hit 3 of their 7 3-point attempts in the first half.
"We were excited about it and the kids were calm," Southeast coach Ty Margenthaler said about the halftime lead. "They were just under control. Really, as a staff, we told them we didn't play a great first half, but what we did was we played hard, so we kept ourselves in the game by playing hard and we made some shots and our defense was real consistent. My big talk at the half was possession by possession. That's what we have to worry about in the second half."
The Redhawks stayed with the Panthers, who played in the NCAA tournament last season, for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Northern Iowa (5-1) only led 40-35 with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game.
But the Panthers scored the next 15 points to seize control.
"Northern Iowa came out the second half in kind of an extended 2-3 trapping zone press and we got a couple early turnovers and it really deflated us unfortunately," Margenthaler said. "We just kind of backed down. Our lack of care with the ball and we put them on the free-throw line really hurt us in the second half."
Southeast freshman Allyson Bradshaw hit a 3-pointer to snap the Panthers' run, but it was too late. The Redhawks turned over the ball six times during the Panthers' 15-0 run.
The Redhawks also struggled from the floor in the second half. They only hit 20.8 percent of their shots from the floor (5 of 24) over the final 20 minutes.
"Their defense was definitely forcing us to do some things that we normally don't do," Margenthaler said. "We took some quick shots. We got a little rushed. The shots were contested pretty well. I think after turning the ball over two or three times in a row, we really got deflated.
"I talked to them at timeouts about we have to be a little more mentally tougher and not let that effect you and go on to the next play. But we've got to learn from that."
The Redhawks finished with 27 turnovers, and the Panthers scored 27 points off those turnovers. Northern Iowa committed 15 turnovers, but Southeast only managed four points off the Panthers' turnovers.
"We played probably the best team we've played all preseason, quite honestly," Margenthaler said. "They're going to be in the NCAA tournament. They're just a very, very experienced, veteran group. They have three seniors and two juniors."
Brittany Harriel and Bailie Roberts led the Redhawks with 11 points apiece. Harriel also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Southeast did outrebound the Panthers 36-31.
K.K. Armstrong led Northern Iowa with 11 points, while Katelin Oney and Tiffanie Porter both added 10.
The Redhawks had to endure a 450-mile bus trip overnight and expected to arrive in Cape Girardeau around 6 a.m. today. They will return to action Saturday when they host Lindenwood University, which is transitioning from NAIA to Division II.
"It's going to be a tough game," Margenthaler said. "For a coach, it's scary because we're going to get home at 6 in the morning and we play again Saturday that [against a team that] is very well coached and is in our state. It's going to be a big thing for them and it's going to be a big thing for us too. It's going to be kind of a gut check."
Lindenwood is 3-3 this season.
The Redhawks then have a week off before playing against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Dec. 10
"We're going to be glad to be home and also glad to know we're going to have two days off afterward," Margenthaler said. "We need a couple days off. We've been on the road too long and it will be nice to get away from basketball for a few days to get their minds right."