Northern Iowa forward Seth Tuttle, right, drives to the basket past Indiana State forward Jake Kitchell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall
January 21, 2015

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) Northern Iowa spent the past two weeks cruising through the Missouri Valley Conference.

Indiana State pushed the Panthers until the final seconds.

Matt Bohannon hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Seth Tuttle had 12 of his 16 points in the second half, and 20th-ranked Northern Iowa held off Indiana State 66-60 on Wednesday night for its sixth straight victory.

Jeremy Morgan had 11 points for the Panthers (17-2, 6-1 MVC), who blew a 10-point lead before rallying to break a tie for second place in the Valley between themselves and the Sycamores.

Indiana State ''plays really, really, really good defense,'' Tuttle said. ''We knew it was going to be a struggle.''

Indiana State went on an 11-0 run to jump ahead 47-46 with 6:40 left. But Northern Iowa tightened up its defense and did just enough on offense to withstand a late charge by the Sycamores.

Still, it wasn't until Tuttle was fouled with a second left that the Panthers could exhale.

Justin Gant and Brenton Scott each had 13 points for Indiana State (9-10, 5-2), which has dropped its last two.

Northern Iowa and Indiana State entered with matching 5-1 records in the Valley. That's where the similarities ended.

While the Panthers have been ranked for weeks, the Sycamores lost to Eastern Illinois and Missouri-Kansas City before their surprising start to league play.

Northern Iowa got off to a quick start, hitting three early 3-pointers and going up 15-5 after just 6 minutes.

But the Sycamores rallied, partly because the Panthers were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball and cold at the free throw line. Gant's layup capped the run that put Indiana State ahead by one.

Tuttle made plays down the stretch, though. He drew a key charge with 2:03 left and the Panthers up 52-50, and his three-point play gave Northern Iowa a 57-51 lead a minute later.

''He's so unselfish,'' Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. ''That's what great players do - and he's a great player.''

The Panthers finished with 11 turnovers.

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PIVOTAL MOMENT

Northern Iowa might have lost if not for Tuttle's three-point play with 1:04 left. Tuttle threw the ball off the glass as the shot clock was set to expire, giving the Panthers a two-possession lead. ''We want him to touch the basketball in that situation,'' coach Ben Jacobson said. The Sycamores hit a layup and banked in a 3 to keep things interesting in the final minute.

TIP-INS

Indiana State: The Sycamores' unbeaten start to conference play ended with an 84-78 loss to Drake last Saturday. The Bulldogs are 4-14.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers moved up three spots in The Associated Press Top 25 this week and are one spot below their best ranking of 19th. The Panthers were No. 19 on Feb. 8, 2010.

QUOTABLE

''They punched us right in the face. We were a little anxious, a little nervous. Made some scouting report mistakes. Let Bohannon get loose,'' Lansing said of Indiana State's poor start. ''But after that, I really commend our guys for how hard they fought.''

UP NEXT

Indiana State hosts Loyola on Saturday.

Northern Iowa plays at Illinois State on Sunday.

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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