TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — It was business as usual for Northern Iowa.
Coming off their biggest-regular season win in years, a 16-point decision Saturday that ended Wichita State’s 30-game winning streak against Missouri Valley Conference teams, the No. 14 Panthers had little trouble avoiding a letdown Tuesday night.
With versatile senior forward Seth Tuttle stuffing the stat sheet once again and the defense frustrating Indiana State at every turn, Northern Iowa jumped into sole possession of first place in the MVC with a routine 61-51 win at Hulman Center.
In winning their 10th straight game, the Panthers (21-2, 10-1) led by double figures for the entire second half, owning as much as an 18-point advantage at one point.
“They’re every bit as good as advertised,” Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said of Northern Iowa. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, and they’ve become so efficient on offense.
“Their basketball IQ is probably as high as any team I’ve coached against. They dictated the pace of the whole game. It was never really a game.”
Sycamores guard Brenton Scott opened the game with a jumper, but Indiana State (11-12, 7-4) never led for the last 38 minutes, 11 seconds. After committing four turnovers on their first eight possessions, the Panthers simply carved up the home team with crisp execution.
Tuttle scored a game-high 15 points while adding eight rebounds and five assists despite dealing with multiple defenders and a variety of double-teams.
“You have to pick your poison a little bit,” Sycamores center Jake Kitchell said of defending Tuttle. “If you double him, he’s such a good passer — probably the best on their team — that he’ll find the open man.
“If you play him straight up, he can score on you. We tried to make him work for his points, and I thought we did a decent job of that, although we let him get to the foul line a bit too much.”
No one got to the foul line at all in a rapid first half which went nearly 14 minutes before the first media timeout. Even the officials shared a laugh with the Northern Iowa bench when play was halted after the game’s first foul at the 6:15 mark.
Panthers coach Ben Jacobson said the uninterrupted play favored his team.
“I think that’s where your experience comes through for us,” he said. “We’ve got guys who have played together, and that helps in a stretch like that.”
Shortly after the first timeout, Northern Iowa began pulling away. A pretty pass-fake by guard Deon Mitchell left him wide open for a 3-pointer that made the score 26-15, and the Panthers took a 33-22 lead to halftime on a 3-pointer by guard Jeremy Morgan with 23 seconds left.
Tuttle fed backup guard Paul Jesperson for a layup and a 49-31 advantage with 9:58 left in the game. The Sycamores never got closer than 11 for the game’s remainder, canning just 19 of 51 shots (37.3 percent) from the field, including seven of 22 3-point tries (31.8 percent).
“I felt like we did a really good job,” Morgan said. “It’s fun to see how our team is growing on defense.”
Morgan also contributed offensively with 12 points — more than double his 5.2 per game average — while hauling in nine rebounds. Panthers reserve guard Wes Washpun kicked in 10.
Guard Devonte Brown scored 14 points for Indiana State, which could have moved within a game of first place in the conference. Instead, it simply became the latest victim of a team that could make some noise in March.
“I felt like we did a great job on defense tonight,” Tuttle said.
NOTES: Northern Iowa F Seth Tuttle was selected the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week for the second straight week on Monday. He averaged 21 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins over Southern Illinois and Wichita State. … Indiana State G Brenton Scott was named MVC Newcomer of the Week on Monday. Scott averaged 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in a loss at Evansville and a win over Bradley. … The Panthers shot 60 percent from the field in their win over Wichita State, the eighth time this season they converted 50 percent or
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