Northern Iowa leading scorer Seth Tuttle has often been at his best when facing Missouri State.
He'll try for another standout performance Sunday when the 23rd-ranked Panthers host a slumping Bears team which just lost one of the Missouri Valley Conference's other star players.
Tuttle has keyed Northern Iowa (15-2, 4-1) winning four straight over Missouri State, averaging 20.3 points on 22-of-27 shooting in the last three meetings along with 8.7 rebounds. He made the winning last-second tip-in in the most recent matchup, a 60-58 road victory Feb. 15. One year ago to the day of this game, Tuttle had 21 points against the Bears and made four free throws in the final 23 seconds to preserve a 94-89 victory.
He was clutch again at the line Tuesday at Bradley, helping prevent his team from blowing a 23-point lead in a 63-52 victory by making four of his team's seven free throws in the final 51 seconds. Tuttle finished 9 for 9 at the foul line as the Panthers won their fourth in a row.
"I hope the guys remember how well they played in the first 20 or 30 minutes of the game, rather than the final five minutes," coach Ben Jacobson said. "Because we can build on our performance early in the game."
Tuttle had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The senior forward is among the few players in the nation to lead his team in all three categories - 14.5 points, 6.0 boards, 3.2 assists per game - as well as blocks (0.7).
"Tuttle is just a great player," Bradley coach Geno Ford said. "Everything they do goes through him. He controls the whole game out there."
Missouri State (8-9, 2-3) is reeling from the loss of a great player.
Marcus Marshall, the MVC's second-leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, announced his intention to transfer Friday. He was suspended indefinitely before a 56-54 loss to Evansville on Wednesday after reportedly getting into an argument with coach Paul Lusk after being told he was not starting.
"Marcus is a good kid who is trying to find his way, and we wish him the best," Lusk said. "This is a mutual decision that will be the best thing moving forward for our program and for him."
The team's next-highest scorer is Austin Ruder, averaging 8.5 points, and he's been limited to six points on 2-of-13 shooting over the past two games. Dorrian Williams had a team-best 15 points Wednesday in the team's third straight loss.
With Marshall, the Bears were averaging 64.3 points and barely outpacing a defense that's giving up 63.3 per game.
The Panthers, meanwhile, own one of the nation's stingiest defenses, allowing 55.2 points on 37.9 percent shooting. They've given up 48.2 points per game on 33.8 percent shooting in conference play, and Missouri State is scoring an average of 56.0 points on 39.6 percent shooting in the MVC.
Northern Iowa has won 11 consecutive home games while the Bears have dropped 18 of their last 22 MVC road contests.
The Panthers have won 10 of 12 in this series, including three in a row at home.