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Northern Iowa downs Loyola to reach MVC final

Mar 8, 2015 - 4:43 AM St. Louis, MO ( - Seth Tuttle posted 13 points and six rebounds and No. 11 Northern Iowa earned a spot in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game with a 63-49 victory over Loyola-Chicago.

The Panthers were able to avoid an upset that befell top-seeded and eighth- ranked Wichita State in Saturday's first semifinal with a typical efficient performance. Northern Iowa shot better than 51 percent from the field, had just seven turnovers and controlled the boards to reach its first MVC title game since 2010.

Northern Iowa (29-3) will take on fourth-seeded Illinois State for the conference crown after the Redbirds stunned Wichita State 65-62 earlier on Saturday.

"It's going to be a real tough game. A pretty good game tomorrow," said UNI forward Marvin Singleton.

Singleton and Jeremy Morgan added 11 points each for the Panthers, with Singleton grabbing a game-high seven rebounds.

Montel James paced Loyola (19-13) with 14 points and Milton Doyle had 11 for the sixth-seeded Ramblers, who were fresh off a win over No. 3 Indiana State in Friday's quarters.

The Panthers made sure they would not suffer the same fate as the conference's other ranked team. Northern Iowa never trailed at any time and built a 22-11 lead less than 12 minutes in following an 8-0 run capped by a Matt Bohannon 3- pointer.

Loyola was able to get within five with under a minute to go in the first half by holding UNI without a basket for a 4:38 stretch, which Morgan ended with a layup at the buzzer after Singleton hit two free throws as the Panthers entered the break owning a 32-23 advantage.

The Ramblers shot 50 percent for the opening period, but were hurt by eight turnovers that Northern Iowa converted into 14 points.

"I thought our defense was good today, took some things away from them," said Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson. "We were active, did a better job of making some of the passes difficult than what we did at Loyola when we played them last."

Loyola was unable to get the deficit under eight points in the second half, and Northern Iowa began pulling away by putting forth an 11-2 spurt that began after the first media timeout.

A 3-point play from Wyatt Lohaus extended the margin to 43-28 with 13:31 to go, and consecutive baskets from Paul Jesperson and Nate Buss had the Panthers up 47-30 two minutes later.

"It's like going to the dentist," Ramblers coach Porter Moser said of facing Northern Iowa. "I think we took only 39 shots, because they grind out possessions."

Game Notes

Loyola guard Jeff White had to be helped off the court after colliding into a Northern Iowa player with 4:42 left to play ... The Panthers have won the MVC Tournament three times, including back-to-back championship game victories in 2009 (over Illinois State) and 2010 ... Northern Iowa swept the regular-season series with Illinois State, edging the Redbirds 54-53 on the road on Jan. 25 and rolling to an 83-64 triumph in Cedar Falls on Feb. 11 ... The Panthers outrebounded the Ramblers by a 27-18 margin ... Christian Thomas, Loyola's leading scorer on the season, was held to five points.