The UNI Panthers reached the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game, finishing as the runners-up while pushing their record to 16-18.
To make it to the final, the Panthers had to dispatch both the #3 and the #2 seed in the field, beginning with Friday’s win over third-seeded Southern Illinois.
Senior Wyatt Lohaus led UNI with 21 points in the 61-58 victory over the Salukis.
The Panthers managed to take an eight-point lead into halftime behind an 11-point effort by Lohaus during the opening 20 minutes. The senior guard went 4-9 from the field and also snagged four rebounds.
UNI led by as many as eleven in the second half, but Southern Illinois nudged in front with 31 seconds remaining. However, the Panthers seized the lead permanently when AJ Green hit a mid-range jumper with four seconds left. Two free throws by Spencer Haldeman sealed the victory.
Trae Berhow added 11 points for the Panthers, going 3-4 from beyond the three-point arc.
Saturday, Lohaus led the way again with 27 points, including the game-winning shot against the Drake Bulldogs, in the 60-58 win.
UNI was down three at halftime, and the Bulldogs held the lead for the first 11 minutes of the second half before the Panthers were able to lunge ahead. From that point, it was back-and-forth to the finish.
Drake’s Tremell Murphy tied the game at 58 with just eight seconds remaining, before Lohaus drove the length of the floor to bank in the winning shot with 2.1 seconds left. The Bulldogs missed the game’s last shot as time expired.
The 27 points by Lohaus were a career high. Berhow delivered a dozen and led the Panthers with six rebounds.
In Sunday’s tournament final, UNI was sharp early, establishing an 18-point lead early in the second half, but the Bradley Braves were undeterred, coming back to take the contest and the automatic NCAA Tournament bid 57-54.
Green made the Panthers’ first shot of the game, a straight-on three on the first possession, and UNI led until the late minutes of the second half.
Bradley’s rally was completed after simultaneous fouls by AJ Green and Luke McDonnell. Those put the Braves’ Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye at the line for four shots; he made all four to give Bradley a 53-50 lead. Although Green made a jumper with 43 seconds remaining, more Braves free throws left UNI with hopes resting on a running, half-court attempt by Lohaus which missed the mark.
Green ended with 23 points, going 8-20 from the field, 3-6 from beyond the three-point arc, plus five assists.
Berhow notched nine points, all on shots from beyond the arc.
Lohaus and Green earned spots on the MVC All-Tournament Team. Lohaus finished with 54 points while Green ended with 35, including the game-winning basket Friday.