With No. 14 Wichita State having won earlier in the day to move to 8-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play, No. 20 Northern Iowa needed a win at Illinois State to remain just a game behind the Shockers in the standings. That proved to be easier said than done, with the Redbirds having Paris Lee in the lineup after a knee issue resulted in his missing Illinois State’s win at Drake earlier in the week.
Lee was one of three Redbirds to reach double figures, scoring 12 points, but what proved to be more of an issue for Northern Iowa was the turnover department. UNI committed 16 turnovers on the day, and with many of them being of the live-ball variety Illinois State scored 18 points off of those mistakes (plus-13 point margin). But thanks in part to a move to a zone defense by head coach Ben Jacobson the Panthers were able to hang around, and their comeback from a 12-point second half deficit was capped by senior Nate Buss.
Buss’ corner three with 5.2 seconds remaining gave UNI a 54-53 lead, with that becoming the final score when Daishon Knight’s runner fell short as time expired. Seth Tuttle was UNI’s lone double-figure scorer, finishing with 21 points along with ten rebounds, but their limiting Illinois State to 34.4% shooting kept them in contention for the win despite the fact that the Redbirds attempted 22 more field goals (61 to 39).
UNI remains a game behind Wichita State in the Valley, with their first meeting of the season scheduled for next Saturday in Cedar Falls.