It’s been a little more than two weeks since Wichita State dealt Northern Iowa its only Missouri Valley Conference loss.
The 24th-ranked Panthers have bounced back by relying on their usual stingy defense but will try to have a better start at the other end of the floor when they host the Shockers on Wednesday night.
Northern Iowa (19-2, 10-1) had reeled off a school-record 15 consecutive wins and earned its first national ranking in nearly four years before traveling to Wichita on Jan. 19.
The Panthers limited the Shockers to 40.0 percent shooting but couldn’t rally from a 12-point halftime deficit in a 60-51 loss.
Northern Iowa shot 32.0 percent in the first half and missed all seven attempts from 3-point range. With a team-best 14 points and seven rebounds, senior center Jordan Eglseder was one of four starters in double figures, but the other five players who saw action contributed five points.
That defeat eventually pushed the Panthers out of the Top 25 after a one-week stay at No. 20.
“Wichita State did a very good job defensively,” coach Ben Jacobson said following the loss. “They guarded us well in the first half and made things tough for us.”
Since that loss, Jacobson’s team has yielded an average of 54.3 points on 38.8 percent shooting in three straight wins. The Panthers, among the nation’s leaders in allowing 55.1 points per game, relied on that defense after blowing a seven-point lead in the second half Saturday at Missouri State.
They held the Bears scoreless in the final 1:38, and Kerwin Dunham gave his team a 55-54 victory on a tip-in with 40 seconds remaining. That win helped Northern Iowa return to the Top 25 on Monday, and it will try to stay there with an 11th consecutive home victory.
The Panthers are also trying to push their Missouri Valley lead over the Shockers (19-4, 8-3) to three games with six to play.
After knocking off Northern Iowa, Wichita State followed with a loss at Drake on Jan. 23 but has since claimed consecutive victories, winning 55-54 at Southern Illinois on Sunday night.
Graham Hatch was the only starter in double figures with 13 points. Garrett Stutz scored 10 of his 12 in the second half as the Shockers held off a late rally to snap an 11-game road skid to the Salukis.
“It’s a big win,” coach Gregg Marshall said. “The Shocks haven’t won here in a while.”
Wichita State’s top three scorers, Toure Murry (12.4), Clevin Hannah (12.4) and J.T. Durley (11.4) were limited to a combined 18 points.
Murry and Hannah also had a combined 11 last month against Northern Iowa, but Durley scored 19 and Hatch added 14.
Adam Koch, averaging a team-best 12.7 points, and Eglseder are the only Panthers to score in double figures in each of the consecutive defeats to the Shockers - both on the road.
Wichita State, which has split its six conference games away from home, has dropped its past two visits to Northern Iowa.