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Tanya Warren and the Panthers took it to Iowa Sunday. Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

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CEDAR FALLS, Ia. — Whether in Iowa City or Cedar Falls, not much had gone right the past decade-plus when Northern Iowa tangoed with its southern neighbor. The Hawkeyes owned this women’s basketball rivalry with authority.

Years of frustration came to an abrupt halt Sunday afternoon.

UNI’s strong opening quarter set the tone for an emphatic Panther showing. The UNI cushion grew to as much as three touchdowns in the second half en route to an 88-66 runaway win over Iowa at the McLeod Center.

The win gives the Panthers (4-0) their first in the series since 2006, snapping a 12-game losing streak. It’s just the third time in 25 matchups UNI has emerged victorious over the Hawkeyes (2-1). Its other win came way back in 1975.

Balanced scoring did the trick. The Panthers put four in double figures — Kam Finley (20 points), Abby Gerrits (15), Kristina Cavey (14) and Nicole Kroeger (13) — and didn’t get a single point from all-MVC point guard Karli Rucker. UNI’s versatility and depth dominated this day.

"Extremely proud of them," said Panthers coach Tanya Warren, who picked up her first win as a head coach over Iowa. "I thought their preparation was really good leading up to this game. More than anything else, I just told them how much I loved them and how proud I am. 

"I think this team has more depth than any of our previous teams. It shows in our ability to go 52 points off the bench."    

A blended but largely purple crowd hopped on the Panthers attack early. A 21-13 first-quarter lead morphed into a double-digit cushion for good in the final minute of the half. UNI scored the last five points of the second quarter and the first five points of the third for a 50-31 lead.

The Hawkeyes, still trying to settle into this season, weren’t climbing out of this one. An 8-0 third-quarter run just momentarily woke up those who made the 90-mile trek. But the Panthers kept a tight grip throughout.

"We've got a lot of people playing minutes who weren't last year," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said, "so it's going to take a while to gain that experience and confidence — to understand how you go on the road — and those types of things as well."   

Here’s what we learned.

The Panthers are navigating their tough non-conference schedule admirably. 

What a week for the Panthers. UNI embraced its tough non-conference schedule from the jump — and it’s paying off now. Not even a month in and the Panthers already have two Power Five wins to their name.

Missouri and Iowa aren’t the same teams they were a year ago, when graduated stars Sophie Cunningham and Megan Gustafson met in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. But Wednesday’s 78-73 win over the Tigers coupled with Sunday’s drubbing should generate plenty of confidence that UNI is here to stay this season.  

With more sizable opportunities ahead, the Panthers have great chances for resume enhancers before hitting conference play.

"(This week) has definitely built confidence," Finley said. "Every single time we end a game, we just say we'll celebrate until midnight, and then we're onto the next one."  

UNI's downtown success fuels it again.

It’s no secret the Panthers love to fire away. They averaged 27 3-point attempts through their first three games, including a staggering 42 downtown shots at Missouri. Sunday delivered more 3-point success.

Six different Panthers hit treys, punctuated by three apiece from Gerrits and Kroeger. That effort ballooned UNI’s second-half lead and kept Iowa from making any significant dents. The Panthers ultimately dusted the Hawkeyes at their own game (Iowa went 5-for-16 from deep).

"I think moving the ball and getting good shots in the offense," Gerrits said, "just helped us get momentum and score a lot." 

The Hawkeyes haven't really looked sharp yet.

Three games complete, Iowa still hasn’t settled in to this season. It’s really only played one solid quarter — the fourth in pulling away from Florida Atlantic — while the other 11 have ranged from pedestrian to downright bad.

Just about everyone struggled Sunday. Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer went a combined 7-for-30. Amanda Ollinger grabbed 10 boards but fouled out in the fourth. The offense never really flowed at any point.

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Lisa Bluder and Makenzie Meyer dissect Iowa's blowout loss to UNI. Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

Transition was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it’s accepted. The Hawkeyes, which return to action Wednesday against Princeton before heading to Puerto Rico, have plenty of question to answer fast.        

"We only had 11 assists (Sunday), and that's something we focus on every single day in practice and really value," Meyer said. "It's looking for more pitches. It's giving up a good shot for a great shot, and I think we all could've done a better job of that."   

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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