CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa outlasted Loyola-Chicago, 67-62, in overtime in a Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball game Sunday afternoon at McLeod Center.
A pair of Trae Berhow free throws, a 3-pointer from Spencer Haldeman and two free throws from AJ Green gave UNI a seven-point cushion that Loyola was unable to overcome in overtime.
“(UNI) plays hard on both ends. They cut hard. They move hard and they guard you hard,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “We had too many wasted possessions. We had some of our new guys (who’ve) got to learn how to respond in a game like this. It’s a high-level Valley game with a high-level crowd.”
Before OT, UNI (17-3, 6-2) was clinging to a four-point lead when video review confirmed Green’s seventh turnover with 38 seconds remaining, despite coach Ben Jacobson and 5,145 UNI fans lobbying for a Loyola foul.
Cameron Krutwig — who scored a game-high 19 points — dropped in a layup on a pick-and-roll with Lucas Williamson to bring the Ramblers within a basket at 55-53.
Isaiah Brown’s miss on the front-end of a 1-and-1 free throw set up a final possession for Loyola to draw even and another foul call on Brown’s contest of Tate Hall’s layup gave the Ramblers the free throws they needed to go into overtime at 55 apiece.
“I think being a little bit older helps (our poise),” Jacobson said. “At this point, end of January last year, I don’t know that we would have stuck together enough (to win) just given our experience level at that time.”
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An 8-0 run by UNI midway through the second half originally appeared to be the outburst that would send it past Loyola (13-7, 6-2) without needing overtime. Antwan Kimmons’ fastbreak layup that capped the run ended as a three-point play. The freshman guard gave UNI a much-needed boost with 13 points off the bench, joining Phyfe (14), Green (14) and Haldeman (12) in double-figures.
“Probably started two days ago in practice, I just kind of was like, ‘I’ve got to be more aggressive and go back to playing how I was playing in Cancun,’” Kimmons said of his performance. “What also gave me a boost is Kobe (Bryant) dying. That’s my favorite player.”
While Krutwig, a potential MVC Player of the Year candidate, scored 19, he was matched by Phyfe’s 14 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals in what was a display of the Valley’s best big men.
“It was a lot of fun,” Phyfe said. “Krutwig is a great player. Playing against one of the best bigs in the league, it’s always fun.”
UNI held Loyola to a season-low 36.4-percent mark from the field and racked up a season-high eight steals.
The Panthers’ win over Loyola moves them back into a first-place tie in the MVC. The two teams meet again Feb. 15 at Gentile Arena in Chicago.
“I thought we were great tonight,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “We talked about Krutwig all week. Tonight was our best defensive performance for 40 minutes.”
UNI hosts Missouri State (10-11, 4-4) Wednesday at 6 p.m. (ESPN+).