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All Time MVC Arch Madness Session 2

Today we continue our all-time Arch Madness with session two, the Friday afternoon session featuring the first two games of the quarterfinals. Today we’ll see the top seeded 2016 Valpo Crusaders against last night’s first winners, the 2016 Evansville Aces. Then we’ll see a matchup of two of the most decorated MVC teams of this century, the 2018 Loyola Ramblers and the 2010 UNI Panthers.

Game 3: #1 2016 Valparaiso Crusaders (12-6) vs. #8 2016 Evansville Purple Aces (7-11) We start the afternoon quarterfinal session with a matchup of two teams that come from the same year and could have played in real life (but didn’t). This isn’t the first rodeo as a league tournament top seed for the 2016 Valpo Crusaders, and they learned the hard way not to take it for granted the first time around. Valpo won the 2016 Horizon League by three full games but lost their conference tournament opener to Green Bay in OT. They probably should have gotten an NCAA bid, but had to settle for an NIT 1-seed which they rode all the way to the title game in New York City (before falling to George Washington). This is a stellar team but not technically an MVC team, although their success paved the way for Valpo’s entrance into the league in 2017. The 2016 Evansville Aces booked their spot in this quarterfinal with a 13-point win over the 2011 MVC Champion Missouri State Bears last night. This team, perhaps more than any other in the field, has something to prove. They are one of only two teams in this tournament to fail to win both the regular season and tournament MVC title, and the other (2006 Bradley) played in the deepest MVC of modern times and ultimately made a run to the Sweet 16. These Aces didn’t even get a chance to play in the NIT. Valpo played four Indiana and two MVC teams in the nonconference, but these two teams never played each other in real life. Evansville started the game off well as Jaylon Brown and DJ Balentine combined for all 11 UE points as they took an 11-4 lead into the first TV timeout. Alec Peters and Shane Hammink kept Valpo close, as Peters’ tip-in cut the Aces lead to 15-13 with 12:44 left in the half. Egidijus Mockevicius single handedly went on a 6-0 run over the next minutes to extend the Aces lead back to 21-13 with 11:38 to go. But a three by Tevonn Walker and a pair of free throws by Peters got the Crusaders back within one, 21-20. Valpo took the lead for the first time on a pair of Darien Walker free throws to make it 27-25 with 7:24 on the clock. Evansville then went on another 6-0 mini run capped off by two Blake Simmons freebies to give the Aces a 31-27 lead with 5:17 to go. The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half, with the lead changing hands five times. A three-pointer by Keith Carter at the 29 second mark gave Valpo a 39-37 lead at the break. Jubril Adekoya started the second half with a three to give Valpo a 42-37 lead. The Aces went on yet another 6-0 run to reclaim the lead at 43-42 after an and-one by Christian Benzon with 17:27 to go. The lead changed hands eight times in the next three minutes, but then the Aces would make just one basket from the floor over a six-minute dry spell. Valpo took advantage, getting baskets from Shane Hammink, Walker, and Peters (as well as free throws from Adekoya) to extend their lead to 62-52 with 10:29 left. The Aces would not go away. Trailing 67-60 at the under eight timeout, UE put together a 7-2 run to get the deficit to two, 69-67, with 5:20 to go. Thrice Valpo extended its lead to four just to see Evansville immediately answer 71-69, 73-71, 75-73. After a three second violation by Adekoya, Jaylon Brown hit a jumper from the left corner for Evansville to tie the game at 75 with 2:48 to go. Unfortunately for the Aces, the last three minutes were a bit of a debacle for them. Alec Peters hit one free throw to give Valpo a lead they would not relinquish. DJ Balentine missed an open three, Blake Simmons turned the ball over, Balentine missed another three, Jaylon Brown missed a shot badly, and Balentine missed again. Meanwhile Valpo scrapped together six more points, mostly by Alec Peters, to claim the victory by a final of 82-75 to advance to the semifinals. Balentine’s ineffectiveness may have done the Aces in. He scored 18 points but had to take 16 shots to get it. Egidijus Mockevicius only scored 12 points but nabbed a monstrous 18 rebounds for UE. On the other side it was the Alec Peters show. He scored 27 points and nabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. He was not about to waste a one-seed again. Darien walker scored ten off the bench, while Shane Hammink, Jubril Adekoya, and Tevonn Walker each had nine for the otherwise balanced Crusaders. Valpo will advance to the semifinals where they will face the winner of the game-of-the day coming up next between the 2018 Final Four Loyola Ramblers and the 2010 Sweet 16 UNI Panthers.

FINAL: 2016 Valpo 82, 2016 Evansville 75

Game 4: #4 2018 Loyola Ramblers (10-8) vs. #5 2010 Northern Iowa Panthers (10-8) Our second quarterfinal game features two of the most decorated MVC teams in recent memory. These squads combined for 30 MVC wins, a 62-10 record overall, two league regular season titles, two Arch Madness titles, two Larry Bird Trophy winners, and six NCAA Tournament wins including a Sweet 16 and a Final Four. These two teams came in at #1 and #2 in my “Greatest MVC Teams of the 21st Century” list. One would have imagined both would be challenging for the regular season title in this make believe competition. Instead, they came in the middle of the pack and wound up facing off in this epic 4-5 game at Arch Madness. Neither team is a stranger to strong postseason runs. Loyola won the MVC by four games in 2018 and won Arch Madness with relative ease (their toughest challenge, ironically, came from 9th seeded UNI in round one). That triggered a magical tourney run that began with buzzer-beating upset wins over Miami and Tennessee in round one and two, and exciting wins in the next two rounds over Nevada and K-State to advance to the Final Fricken Four where they lost to Michigan despite leading at halftime. UNI had a similar run in 2010. They won the Valley by three games before three easy Arch Madness wins in which they held their opponents to an average of 44 points a game. As a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament they beat 8-seed UNLV on a late 3-pointer by Ali Farokhmanesh before getting one of the MVC’s most famous wins, 69-67 over the NCAA’s over #1 team Kansas. Farokhmanesh hit another big one there too. One of these teams will get the chance to relive the glory of their past runs, while the other will have this postseason experience cut short.

The Panthers jumped out to an early 14-8 lead after a 15-footer from Kwadzo Ahelegbe and a three by Ali Farokhmanesh leading into the under 12 timeout. Following their custom, UNI then failed to score for nearly six minutes as Loyola went on a 9-0 run to take the lead. The run culminated in a three pointer by Ben Richardson off a pass from Clayton Custer, and two free throws by Cameron Krutwig. The two teams traded baskets for the next several minutes, with Loyola increasing their lead to three, only for UNI to answer. After Marques Townes hit a three to give Loyola a 24-20 lead, UNI tied it back up on consecutive baskets by Ahelegbe and Farokhmanesh. The last four minutes of the half belonged to Loyola, as they outscored the Panthers 9-5 to take a 33-29 lead into the break. Cameron Satterwhite of all people hit a three pointer at the buzzer to give the Ramblers their 4-point edge.

The game lived up to the hype in the second half. UNI scored on its first possession of the half (a long two from Farokhmanesh) but then went on another 5-minute scoring drought. However, Loyola could only muster two baskets during the time (from Cameron Krutwig and Aundre Jackson) before Adam Koch hit a short jumper off an assist from Johnny Moran. After Aundre Jackson answered with a fadeaway jumper, UNI went on a 10-1 run over the next three minutes to reclaim the lead, 43-40 at the under 12 timeout. The run was spearheaded by Jordan Eglseder who scored six of UNI’s points during the spurt. The Panthers continued to hold a small lead as the teams traded baskets and Kwadzo Ahelegbe hit a jumper to put UNI up 50-44 with under nine minutes to play. Unfortunately for UNI, another drought struck at that time, and Loyola would outscore the Panthers 14-3 over the next six minutes to take a 58-53 lead into the under four timeout. Donte Ingram kickstarted the run with a three to make it 50-47, and Cameron Krutwig hit the next two shots, followed by a jumper from Kuster, another basket by Krutwig, and two free throws by Adarius Avery. Adam Koch finally hit a shot to end the drought, but Donte Ingram hit a 3 with three minutes to go to increase the Loyola lead to 61-55. That remained the score with 1:30 to go, but UNI refused to give up. Lucas O’Rear slammed home a dunk to cut the Loyola lead to 61-57, and after Clayton Kuster hit two free throws O’Rear answered again with a layup to make it 63-59 with 51 ticks to go. That started a furious sequence in which Cameron Krutwig missed the front end of a one and one, Jordan Eglseder missed a shot for UNI, Ali Farokhmanesh snagged the offensive board and Johnny Moran ultimately hit a three to cut Loyola’s lead to 63-62 with 13 seconds to go. Cameron Krutwig was fouled again by UNI and this time he made the first free throw but missed the second. Trailing by two, UNI frantically pushed the ball up the floor but Ahelegbe’s shot from the free throw line to tie it was blocked by Krutwig who hustled back after his missed free throw. Loyola hung on to win, 64-62.

It was a team effort for both teams as nine different Ramblers scored (led by Marques Townes’ and Cameron Krutwig with 13), and eight got a rebound led by Donte Ingram with 9. Loyola won despite shooting just 21-51 from the floor and 5-18 from deep. Their 17 free throws on 23 attempts were likely the difference, as UNI only had five free throw attempts. The Panthers also struggled from deep, going 4-18. UNI had nine scorers as well (Jordan Eglseder had 15 and Adam Koch had 13) and ten rebounders (Adam Koch had 9). With the win, Loyola advances to face 2016 Valpo in a matchup of two former Horizon League programs. That is the end of the Friday afternoon session, and so far the better seed has won every game. The 2006 Bradley Braves will try to change that as they lead off our night session against the 2008 Drake Bulldogs. FINAL: 2018 Loyola 64, 2010 Northern Iowa 62

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1 Comment

Jan 13, 2021

2016 Valpo would have given 2018 Loyola all it could handle on a neutral court. They had fairly equal depth and as many offensive weapons. I think Loyola would have been tougher in the paint, but not much. So I will be curious to see how this game plays out.

2016 Aces had three outstanding players ... and it drops off a lot after that.

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