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Ruffridge, Bears top UNI women

Ex-Pocahontas Area star helps No. 25 Missouri St. to road win victory

Missouri State's Elle Ruffridge looks on earlier this season during a game in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

CEDAR FALLS — The 25th-ranked Missouri State women’s basketball team and Elle Ruffridge finally began defense of their Missouri Valley Conference title on Friday night.

The Bears picked up a 70-51 victory over Northern Iowa, with Ruffridge making her return to Iowa in impressive fashion.

Ruffridge, who led Pocahontas Area to back-to-back state championships, scored eight points with two assists, two blocks, a steal and just one turnover in a team-high 33 minutes played. The senior got the start in her homecoming with Missouri State (5-2 overall, 1-0 in league).

“It felt great to get back at it with my girls,” Ruffridge said. “We were all very excited and anxious leading up to this first game back. We played solid defense for 40 minutes and ultimately just had fun.

“You never know when it’s going to be the last time you play so you just have to make the most of it.”

This was the first time back on the court for Missouri State since a Dec. 19 loss to South Dakota State. The Bears were forced to the sidelines due to positive COVID-19 test results among Tier I personnel.

And they showed no effects of the extended time off.

Missouri State raced out to a 20-7 lead after the first quarter and were up 36-24 at the break. The Bears shot 9-for-18 from the field during the opening eight minutes and were 16 of 24 early on with four made 3-pointers.

With just under seven to go, Ruffridge took an outlet pass and dropped in a layup to make it 59-45 in favor of Missouri State. She followed that up with a steal at mid-court.

“It was a great first game back and great way to start off conference play,” Ruffridge said. “Now it’s time to rest up and ger ready to do the same thing (Saturday).”

Missouri State is now 55-9 since late in 2018, a run that includes a 31-6 record on the road. They are also now 57-28 all-time against the Panthers, winning six straight and 11 of the last 15 meetings.

Earlier this season, the Bears earned an 81-72 victory over Big Ten contender Maryland and also topped in-state rival Missouri, 72-58. Ruffridge scored a season-high 19 in the win vs. Missouri.

Missouri State will remain in town for another battle with the Panthers on Saturday. Tip is set for 4 p.m. with the game to stream live on ESPN+.

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