The Loyola men’s basketball team (18-12, 11-6) held on to defeat University of Northern Iowa 56-55 in a pivotal Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) matchup at McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa Wednesday night.
The victory keeps the Ramblers tied for first place with Drake University with one game left before the MVC Tournament March 7-10. Loyola sophomore guard Lucas Williamson returned to the starting lineup after missing 10 games with a broken hand, putting up 12 points and stealing the ball four times on defense.
Loyola redshirt senior guard Marques Townes led the Ramblers in scoring with 16 points while also pulling down eight rebounds. Sophomore center Cameron Krutwig also scored in double figures, putting up 14 points and also grabbing eight rebounds.
The Ramblers were shooting well in the first half, making 5 of 11 three-point attempts. However, in the second half Loyola went cold, going 1-for-10 from downtown after the break.
The game came down to the wire, with Loyola redshirt sophomore forward Aher Uguak throwing down a slam dunk to put Loyola back out in front 55-53 with 54 seconds left. After Williamson hit a free throw to make it 56-53, Northern Iowa guard AJ Green sank a layup to pull the Panthers within two points with 11 seconds remaining.
Townes committed a key turnover with nine seconds left to give Northern Iowa one last chance to pull out a victory. Green’s jumper from the free throw line was off the mark, and the Ramblers held on.
The Ramblers are next scheduled to close out the regular season March 2 against Bradley University at a sold-out Gentile Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.