No. 1 Seed UNI Falls to Loyola in MVC Tournament Semifinals, 66-43
Last Saturday, the Panthers defeated Loyola-Chicago 102-96 in overtime in the McLeod Center.
Unfortunately, the result was not the same in St. Louis today, March 5. The Ramblers came out on top, defeating the UNI in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in dominant fashion, 66-43.
We had a hard time getting some points in the first half," Coach Ben Jacobson said following the loss. "We had some good possessions that didn't result in getting points on the board. ... What our guys have done the last couple months has been terrific, and today, we got behind the 8-ball."
Loyola outscored UNI 39-23 in the first half, including an 8-0 run over the final 1:16.
A big factor in the score discrepancy in the first half came at the hands of the officials -- just six fouls were called over the initial 20 minutes. In a game with that few fouls called, it's difficult for UNI to compete -- especially against the likes of Loyola.
Head coach for the Ramblers, Drew Valentine acknowledged the difference between today's victory and last week's loss, saying Loyola was "allowed to play with more physicality." Physical defense is a staple of the Ramblers' style of basketball.
The Panthers were able to rally in the second half, repeatedly getting Loyola's lead down to single digits, but with every run by UNI, the Ramblers responded.
"They were making tough shots," senior guard Trae Berhow said. "We defended them pretty much the whole possession and then they'd find one player open in the corner or somewhere out top, and they'd get a shot or an offensive rebound."
Braden Norris led the Ramblers in scoring with 19 points, going 7-10 from the field in 31 minutes. Marquise Kennedy, who returned for Friday's win over Bradley after more than a month off due to injury, was second in scoring with 13.
Loyola also held AJ Green -- the 2022 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year -- to 13 points. He shot 4-20 from the field and was 1-7 from three. Green was the only Panther to reach double figures in scoring.
"They changed up how they guarded the ball-screen a little bit," Green said of the Ramblers defense. "(They) really forced me to give (the ball) up. ... We got to the paint and made plays from there, we just missed some shots. So it's not really a matter of us figuring out what to do, we just didn't execute."
AJ is such a good player," Valentine added. "Obviously we wanted to keep Lucas (Williamson) on him a ton. ... We just wanted to make it tough. We wanted to wear him out. We wanted to play with pace offensively to get him moving around because he has to create so much and generate so much offense for them."
Their plan worked. UNI didn't make a shot from the floor over the final 15:11 of the game. They went 0-16 over that time frame.
UNI will now turn its attention to the National Invitation Tournament next, as they received an automatic bid after winning the regular-season MVC championship.
"We'll regroup, and we'll get to that," Jacobson said. "I told these guys, they've done as good of a job as we've had done in our program. ... We'll get to that."