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Horizon League Semifinals Recap: Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee advance to the championship

Youngstown State’s magical ride came to an end, but Milwaukee’s continued.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Kentucky at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

One unprecedented run came to an end in Monday’s Horizon League semifinals while another continued. In the first game, ninth-seeded Youngstown State’s surprising tournament came to an end at the hands of Northern Kentucky, but tenth-seeded Milwaukee was able to keep their dream run alive in a victory over UIC in the other semifinal game.

(4) Northern Kentucky 84 - (9) Youngstown State 74

The Norse never trailed en route to a ten point, semifinal victory over Youngstown State.

Drew McDonald set the tone early for the Norse, scoring the game’s first five points. McDonald would end up scoring 17 of his team-leading 26 points during the first half of the game. His scoring outburst allowed Northern Kentucky to jump out to an early lead and take a 42-27 lead into halftime.

Youngstown State tried to make a game of it in the second half. They shot 60% from the field after halftime and whittled the Northern Kentucky lead down to just five points on a Matt Donlan three with 2:21 left. Northern Kentucky’s Dantez Walton put an end to the Penguin threat with a clutch three pointer of his own to seal the game.

LaVone Holland was a big reason the Norse were able to endure Youngstown State’s offensive onslaught in the second half. Holland scored 12 of his 20 points in the game’s second half including two three pointers. He also setup Walton for that vital basket late in the game to clinch the win.

Cameron Morse and Francisco Santiago tried to lead the Youngstown State comeback effort. Morse finished with 28 points while Santiago recorded 15 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Their efforts ultimately came up just short and put an end to a surprising tournament run that included an upset win of top-seeded Oakland.

Northern Kentucky advances to the conference championship game which will be played on Tuesday night. This season is the first in which the Norse are eligible for the NCAA Tournament since making the transition to Division-I. They can take full advantage of that new eligibility with a win on Tuesday night.

(10) Milwaukee 74 - (6) UIC 68

The Milwaukee Panthers continued to barnstorm their way through the Horizon League tournament with a semifinal victory over UIC.

The miracle tournament run of the Panthers was in jeopardy as UIC launched a second half comeback to tie the game. Dominique Matthews led the effort for UIC with 21 points and twice tied the game late. The latest of his two game-tying baskets came with 2:24 to play and tied the game at 63.

But Milwaukee’s August Haas took matters into his own hands. Haas untied the game with a three pointer. He then came up with a steal on the defensive end and found Brock Stull for the fastbreak bucket. Those five points gave Milwaukee the separation it needed to finish off the semifinal victory.

The Panthers found a way to dominate the post throughout the game. Brett Prahl scored 15 and blocked two shots for Milwaukee. He was able to effectively neutralize Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Tai Odiase, who only played 20 minutes in the game. Prahl credited the work of his teammates in the post game, saying “our guys did a really good job just getting to the rim and then their (UIC’s) bigs would try to go block shots.” This ultimately left Prahl either open or in excellent position to score.

Stull also had an outstanding statistical night for Milwaukee. He led the Panthers with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Stull was also a perfect 3-3 on three pointers in the contest.

Milwaukee entered the Horizon League Tournament as the lowest overall seed. They now stand just one win away from an NCAA Tournament berth. But, while no one was expecting much from Milwaukee in this tournament, the Panthers aren’t surprised to be playing for the championship on Tuesday: