CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Seth Tuttle scored 23 points and 13th-ranked Northern Iowa rolled past Illinois State 83-64 on Wednesday night for its 12th straight victory.
Deon Mitchell had 12 points for the Panthers (23-2, 12-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who matched top-ranked Kentucky with their 23rd win. Only third-ranked Gonzaga has more wins than the Panthers, who haven’t lost since New Year’s Day.
Northern Iowa built a 17-point halftime lead, tied for its largest of the season, and cruised to its 16th straight home win.
Daishon Knight had 16 points for Illinois State (15-10, 7-6). The Redbirds let Northern Iowa rack up a season high in points for a game that ended in regulation.
Illinois State represented Northern Iowa’s biggest roadblock to a 16-1 conference record ahead of a potential league title showdown at 15th-ranked Wichita State on Feb. 28.
The Redbirds didn’t offer much resistance.
Northern Iowa shot 58 percent in the first half — and five Panthers hit 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes. Northern Iowa went ahead by as many as 20 points and took a 50-33 lead into the locker room.
Tuttle was again the early catalyst for the Panthers. He had 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting in just 9 minutes in the first half.
The Redbirds looked as though they might make a run early in the second half, but Tuttle drilled a 3 to put Northern Iowa back ahead 60-44. Paul Jesperson hit a 3 a few minutes later, and Northern Iowa’s lead was back up to 21 points.
Illinois State: The Redbirds are 0-9 in Northern Iowa’s McLeod Center. … Illinois State went more than 5 minutes without scoring midway through the first half.
Northern Iowa: One of the notable omissions from the Wooden Award’s Late Season Top 20 list was Tuttle, the current favorite for player of the year honors in the Valley. Tuttle entered averaging 17.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in conference games. … The Panthers needed a 3 from Nate Buss with 5.2 seconds left to beat the Redbirds 54-53 in Normal, Illinois, two weeks ago.
Illinois State hosts No. 15 Wichita State on Saturday.
Northern Iowa plays at Missouri State on Sunday.
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