Panthers snag MVC championship title

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BRANDON TJEPKES, Sports Editor

No. 11 ranked UNI Panthers emerged victorious this weekend as they came out champions of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Bradley University was the first opponent of the weekend. At first, the game seemed like an easy victory as Bradley only won nine games this season. The Panthers started off hot with a 21-8 lead. Bradley responded with a 10-0 run to finish out the first half. UNI led 27-25 at the half. The second half started with Bradley tying the game 27-27. UNI led 34-32 before unleashing a devastating 28-7 run to gain total control of the game.

UNI won the battle 71-46.

Nate Buss came off the bench to lead the game in scoring with 23 points. Conference player of the year Seth Tuttle added a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. The win was the first quarterfinal win since 2010.

Loyola was the second roadblock. The game started off with a Tuttle three-pointer to begin a 10-2 run. Matt Bohannon drained a three of his own at the 8:40 mark to give the Panthers the biggest lead of the half with 11. UNI led at half 32-23. The second half was more of the same. UNI gained another 10 point lead at the 15:38 mark and would not let Loyola within 10 again for the rest of the game. A Buss layup gave the Panthers a 17 point lead, the biggest of the game. UNI came out on top 63-49.

People thought the championship game was to be a third match up between UNI and Wichita State, but the Shockers were upset by Illinois State. The first half against the Redbirds was not what the Panthers were hoping for. They were held to 23 percent shooting and a 36-23 deficit at halftime. UNI was far from done as they came into the second half swinging. A 25-4 run eliminated the deficit with the help of three 3-pointers from Jeremy Morgan and eight points from Tuttle. The Panthers took control of the second half holding the Redbirds to 33 percent shooting in the second half. The Panthers won 69-60.

This is the fourth tournament championship for the Panthers. The MVC tournament title also earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for a chance at the national championship.