Panthers bounce back to stun No. 15 Wichita State
CEDAR FALLS – Northern Iowa’s last two games ended in agonizing losses that sent the once-promising Panthers back to .500.
On Saturday, they finally did all the right things down the stretch.
Anthony James scored 16 points and Northern Iowa beat 15th-ranked Wichita State 57-52, sending the Shockers into their first losing streak of the season.
Seth Tuttle had eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Panthers (12-11, 5-6 Missouri Valley Conference), who snapped a two-game losing skid of their own. They took control with a 14-0 run in the second half and became just the fourth Valley team in the last 23 games to beat Wichita State at home.
The Shockers (19-4, 8-3) pulled within 52-50 on Carl Hall’s steal and bucket with 1:18 left. But Tuttle blocked a Nick Wiggins try that would have tied it and then sealed the win with a breakaway dunk.
“That’s as happy as I’ve been for a group of guys in quite a while because of what happened last week,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. “I kept asking them to get over it, and they did.”
This was the first win over a ranked opponent for the Panthers. They earned national acclaim with their stunning upset of top-seeded Kansas in the NCAA tournament in 2010, but they will almost certainly miss the tourney for the third year in a row.
Northern Iowa played a brutal non-league slate that included losses to Louisville, Stanford, Memphis, Iowa and UNLV, and it opened Valley play with a 25-point loss at Wichita State.
But the last two games were the worst of all.
They lost their last home game when Indiana State drew contact on a desperation heave and hit free throws just before the final buzzer. They also lost in overtime at Evansville, 54-51, on Tuesday.
Northern Iowa didn’t need much luck against the Shockers, whose offense went into a funk for the final 12 minutes.
“It can turn fast after what’s happened in the past week. I think the reason it didn’t is the way these guys handled themselves between Indiana State and Evansville and the way they handled themselves between Evansville and (Saturday),” Jacobson said. If they had handled themselves differently, if they had let themselves get down. I think that would have affected that last minute.”
Hall led Wichita State with 20 points. The Shockers, who lost to Indiana State on Tuesday, have dropped a game behind league-leading Creighton in the Valley race.
The Shockers gave up sole possession of first place in the Valley when they lost to the Sycamores, snapping a 19-game home winning streak.
Wichita State started and finished this one in much the same manner.
The Shockers went over seven minutes without scoring in the first half, allowing Northern Iowa to take an early edge. But Wichita State steadied itself long enough to pull even at halftime, 23-all.
The Shockers then jumped on the Panthers with seven quick points, which can be huge against a slow-paced team such as Northern Iowa. But the Panthers responded behind a pair of Marc Sonnen 3s, jumping back ahead 37-36.
Sonnen had three 3s for Northern Iowa, which scored 23 of the game’s next 29 points after falling behind 30-23.
“We’re hoping that we can get a spark going right now,” Tuttle said. “It’s not going to be an easy road now that we beat Wichita. But that’s a really good basketball team. That’s a really physical basketball team.”