The No. 6-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers defeated the No. 2 Drake Bulldogs, 60-58, on Saturday to advance to Missouri Valley Conference Championship. They will face Bradley today at 1 p.m., who defeated Loyola 53-51 earlier in the day.
Bradley and UNI both defeated the top-two seeds of the MVC to advance to the final game. It is the first time in the history of the tournament the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds have met in the finals.
UNI’s Wyatt Lohaus scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Panthers over Drake. MVC Freshman of the Year A.J. Green struggled, hitting 3-of-12 shots and scoring only eight points. Both teams shot under 45 percent from the field and committed 10 turnovers each.
Bradley and UNI split their season series, with both teams winning on the road. Bradley guard Darrell Brown scored 29 points in the second meeting between the two teams. Green scored 24 in the same contest in Cedar Falls. Bradley pulled out a 79-71 victory.
Both teams opened their Valley schedules at Carver Arena on Jan. 2 when UNI won 65-47. It was the first of five consecutive losses for Bradley to open conference play.
The Braves are a different team now since senior guard Luqman Lundy has stepped into a starting role. He saw nine minutes of action in the first encounter with UNI and 21 in the second.
The Panthers have out-rebounded the Braves, who were second in the conference in offensive rebounds, in each meeting. UNI ranked second in 3-point attempts in the MVC during the regular season.
UNI has won the last five title games they have played in heading into today. UNI head coach Ben Jacobson has coached four of those titles. This will be Bradley head coach Brian Wardle’s first appearance in the MVC final.