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ST. LOUIS — It wasn’t meant to be.

Aiming to become just the second team to ever win three-consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championships, Northern Iowa saw its season come to an unceremonious end with a 70-64 loss to Missouri State in the quarterfinals Friday.

Alize Johnson, the only Valley player to average a double-double on the season, imposed his will on UNI early, as he accounted for nine of the Bears’ first 11 points and their first four field goals.

He finished the game with 20 points and 17 rebounds. He had seven offensive rebounds, including a couple of key ones down the stretch.

“He came out pretty aggressive and we struggled to defend him and that really hurt us, Panther center Bennett Koch said.

The performance was a major shift from the last time the two teams met, as Johnson, who got into early foul trouble, was limited to four points on 1 of 7 shooting.

Johnson keyed a dominant performance by the Bears on the glass, where they held a 50-25 advantage. They finished with 15 offensive boards.

UNI had just 16 on defense.

“They’re ability to rebound the ball at their offensive end ended up being the difference in the game without question,” Panther Coach Ben Jacobson said. “At the end of the day we didn’t do it well enough. We didn’t get them blocked out and we didn’t come up with enough rebounds.

“If we do, we’ve got a pretty darn good chance to be playing tomorrow.”

Despite those struggles, UNI still had a chance late. Down 59-57 with 1:39 to play, Jordan Ashton got an open look at a three.

But the shot rimmed off, and the Bears were able to close the game out at the foul line. Shooting 25 of 30 from the game, Missouri State hit 11 straight free throws following Ashton’s miss.

After a dismal shooting performance in the regular season finale, Jeremy Morgan came out on fire, hitting his first four shots from the field.

Morgan cooled considerably as the game wore on, but still finished with a team-high 18 points. He also had a game-best three steals.

Koch (15), Spencer Haldeman (11) and Klint Carlson (10) also scored in double figures for UNI, with almost all their points coming in the second half.

UNI ends its season 14-16. This marks the first time a Ben Jacobson team closes the year below .500.

END OF AN ERA: The loss also brought an end to the storied career of Morgan, who along with Ashton, played his final game in a Panther uniform.

Visibly emotional after the game, Morgan expressed gratitude to teammates and coaches from his career, in which he topped 1,000 points and played for two teams that won games in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve been around a lot of great teams and a lot of great guys over the past four years and I wouldn’t take that back for anything,” Morgan said. “I’ve just got to say how much I love the guys and everybody I played with and the coaching staff. I just want to thank everybody for getting me to where I am today.”

To say that Jacobson was appreciative of Morgan’s contributions would be an understatement.

“His name’s always going to be in those top-10 school records. He’s got plenty of them,” Jacobson said. “But that just doesn’t go anywhere close to describing who he is and what he’s meant to our program. For a player to be as good as Jeremy is and unselfish and care as much as he does about his teammates and the program (is incredible).

“To come across a young man that has got that type of character. He’s a special, special guy that way. I can’t tell you how lucky our program is to have Jeremy come through it and put his impact on his program.”

A NEW ERA BEGINS: Morgan’s departure will allow Koch and Carlson, both of whom will be seniors next year, to take the reigns of the program.

Though he like the progress each has made in the last few seasons, Jacobson says neither player has even begun to reach his ceiling.

“(They) aren’t anywhere close to where they’re going to be next year and potentially after that,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of improvement, even though they’re going to be seniors.”

Missouri St. 70, UNI 64

Missouri St. Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Church 29 4-5 0-1 11 2 4 8

Rhodes 15 2-5 0-0 4 0 2 5

Johnson 35 8-15 3-4 17 2 1 20

Miller 39 2-10 4-5 3 3 2 9

Dixon 28 0-3 10-10 0 2 4 10

Martin 10 0-0 3-4 3 0 5 3

Thompson 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Ruder 4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Kreklow 19 2-4 0-0 3 0 0 4

Kendrix 21 2-6 5-6 6 0 2 11

McCullough 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0

Team 3

Totals 200 20-48 25-30 50 9 21 70

UNI Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Carlson 30 4-12 2-4 4 3 4 10

Koch 20 4-8 7-9 5 1 5 15

McCloud 4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Morgan 40 7-18 1-1 5 1 3 18

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Ashton 38 0-7 2-4 0 0 3 2

Friedman 16 0-0 0-0 2 1 2 0

Rhodes 29 3-8 0-0 1 1 1 8

Brown 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Haldeman 23 3-8 4-4 4 1 4 11

McDonnell 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 4

Totals 200 21-61 16-22 25 8 22 64

Missouri St. 31 39 — 70

UNI 29 35 — 64

3-point goals—Missouri State 5-16 (Kendrix 2-6, Rhodes 1-4, Johnson 1-3, Miller 1-3, Kreklow 0-1) UNI 6-28 (Morgan 3-7, Rhodes 2-6, Haldeman 1-5, Ashton 0-7, Carlson 0-3) Steals—Missouri State 1 (Miller 1) UNI 10 (Morgan 3, Koch 2, Ashton 2, Carlson 1, Rhodes 1, Haldeman 1).

Officials—Self, Kissinger, Ferrie. Att.—9,124

Missouri St. 70, UNI 64

Missouri St. Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Church 29 4-5 0-1 11 2 4 8

Rhodes 15 2-5 0-0 4 0 2 5

Johnson 35 8-15 3-4 17 2 1 20

Miller 39 2-10 4-5 3 3 2 9

Dixon 28 0-3 10-10 0 2 4 10

Martin 10 0-0 3-4 3 0 5 3

Thompson 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Ruder 4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Kreklow 19 2-4 0-0 3 0 0 4

Kendrix 21 2-6 5-6 6 0 2 11

McCullough 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0

Team 3

Totals 200 20-48 25-30 50 9 21 70

UNI Mn FG-A FT-A Rb As PF TP

Carlson 30 4-12 2-4 4 3 4 10

Koch 20 4-8 7-9 5 1 5 15

McCloud 4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Morgan 40 7-18 1-1 5 1 3 18

Ashton 38 0-7 2-4 0 0 3 2

Friedman 16 0-0 0-0 2 1 2 0

Rhodes 29 3-8 0-0 1 1 1 8

Brown 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Haldeman 23 3-8 4-4 4 1 4 11

McDonnell 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Team 4

Totals 200 21-61 16-22 25 8 22 64

Missouri St. 31 39 — 70

UNI 29 35 — 64

3-point goals—Missouri State 5-16 (Kendrix 2-6, Rhodes 1-4, Johnson 1-3, Miller 1-3, Kreklow 0-1) UNI 6-28 (Morgan 3-7, Rhodes 2-6, Haldeman 1-5, Ashton 0-7, Carlson 0-3) Steals—Missouri State 1 (Miller 1) UNI 10 (Morgan 3, Koch 2, Ashton 2, Carlson 1, Rhodes 1, Haldeman 1).

Officials—Self, Kissinger, Ferrie. Att.—9,124

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