Northern Iowa used a stout defense to earn its first national ranking in four seasons, but couldn’t generate enough offense in its first game as a Top 25 team.
The 20th-ranked Panthers didn’t need much scoring last weekend to beat Indiana State and will try to bounce back from a rare loss by topping the host Sycamores for the second time in eight days Sunday.
Northern Iowa is among the nation’s toughest teams to score on, allowing 55.2 points per game. The Panthers have done even better in Missouri Valley play, giving up an average of 52.1 points and 37.2 percent shooting.
That’s allowed them to thrive despite the league’s worst offense (65.1 ppg), but that formula didn’t work Tuesday night at Wichita State.
Northern Iowa (16-2, 7-1) had a school-record 15-game win streak snapped in a 60-51 loss, its first defeat in seven road games this season. The 51 points represented the team’s lowest total of the season.
Jordan Eglseder, who led the Panthers with 14 points and seven rebounds, was one of four starters in double figures. However, only Eglseder scored more than 11 points.
“We knew it was going to be a tough environment and got in a bit of a hole in that first half,” senior forward Adam Koch said. “It’s tough to do that and come back against a team like this.”
Koch, scoring a team-best 12.9 points per game, has averaged 15.3 on 65.4 percent shooting in Northern Iowa’s three consecutive wins over the Sycamores (11-8, 3-5).
He reached 1,000 career points with 13 in a 62-40 home rout Jan. 16, and the Panthers’ defense also set a milestone, allowing the fewest points since a 59-39 win at Indiana State on Feb. 26, 2003.
Koch also helped his team snap a three-game road losing streak to the Sycamores last season. In a 61-57 victory, he scored six points during a pivotal 8-0 run en route to a team-best 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Panthers are 11-2 in conference road games over the past two seasons and have won three of four this season.
The Sycamores, meanwhile, have dropped a season-high three in a row overall, but they nearly pulled off the largest comeback in conference history Tuesday night before falling 99-92 in overtime at Missouri State.
Indiana State trailed by 24 early in the second half, but scored 60 points over the final 20 minutes to force the extra session. The Sycamores, however, were outscored 16-9 in that period.
Senior guard Harry Marshall, who has averaged 20.3 points during the losing streak, hit a tying 3-pointer with less than a second remaining and scored a team-leading 21 points. Sophomore swingman Carl Richard added a career-best 20.
Marshall, averaging a team-best 13.4 points, was the only player in double figures in the loss to the Panthers with 11.
Indiana State was without its second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Dwayne Lathan (13.1 ppg), in that defeat, but he could return from a leg injury Sunday.
If he does end a four-game absence, Lathan will try to help the Sycamores earn their first win over a Top 25 team in more than four years. They’ve lost six in a row since beating Butler at home on Dec. 9, 2006.
Indiana State holds a slim 20-19 series lead but has won 13 of 18 home matchups.