ST. LOUIS — Wyatt Lohaus scored 15 points, Hunter Rhodes added 14, and No. 8 seed Northern Iowa never trailed in beating No. 9 seed Evansville 60-50 in the opening round of the 2018 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday night.

Klint Carlson scored nine points with 10 rebounds and Bennett Koch scored eight points with 11 boards as the Panthers (16-15), ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense (62.9 ppg), held MVC leading scorer Ryan Taylor to two points on 1-of-13 shooting.

Northern Iowa advances to face top seed Loyola-Chicago (25-5) on Friday.

Lohaus’ jumper capped an 8-2 run for a 42-30 lead early in the second half, and Isaiah Brown’s layup put the Panthers up 53-41 with 2:27 left. Dru Smith, named to the Missouri Valley Conference Most Improved Team, scored eight straight and Evansville closed to 58-50 on his 3 with 20 seconds left, but Rhodes’ two free throws iced it for the Panthers.

Smith scored 20 points and Duane Gibson added 14 for the Purple Aces (17-15) who shot 38.2 percent from the field.