CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Northern Iowa needed to get back home to turn around its fortunes in close games. The Panthers did so in a big way, upending No. 15 Wichita State 57-52 on Saturday.
The loss knocked Wichita State (19-4, 8-3 Missouri Valley Conference) out of a first-place tie with Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference and ended its four-game win streak over the Panthers. Northern Iowa (12-11, 5-6) ended a two-game losing streak.
Northern Iowa's Seth Tuttle came up with two big plays in the final minute. He blocked a shot by Wichita State's Nick Wiggins to preserve a 54-52 lead. His free throw, after grabbing the rebound and drawing a foul, gave the Panthers a three-point lead.
"I just put my hands up, hoping to get a piece of it," Tuttle said. "I happened to get a lot of the ball. Then we were fortunate enough to get it."
After a Wichita State turnover, he dunked for the final margin. The Panthers lost 59-58 at Indiana State and 54-51 in overtime at Evansville in the past week. They needed some good bounces to start the second half of conference play.
"That's a really good feeling," Tuttle said. "We've had some close games not go our way. We had to keep battling to get this one."
Wichita State's offense continued its slump, and the Shockers are slumping out of the Valley lead. They shot 40.4 percent from the field after converting a season-worst 27.1 percent in Tuesday's loss to Indiana State.
"We've got to play better than we did to win in a place like this," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "We're having a hard time scoring."
The Shockers rallied from a 10-point deficit to make the final minutes interesting. Carl Hall, who led Wichita State with 20 points, scored to cut the lead to 52-50 with 1:18 to play. Northern Iowa's Anthony James responded with two free throws.
Wichita State's Malcolm Armstead scored quickly to make it a two-point game and the Shockers got the ball back. Armstead dribbled into the lane and found Wiggins, open briefly, under the rim. He tried to lay it in, finding Tuttle's hand in the way.
Tuttle grabbed the loose ball and was fouled. His free throw gave UNI a 55-52 lead with 12 seconds to play. Wichita State didn't get off a shot. Armstead dribbled off his foot and out of bounds with six seconds to play.
The Shockers committed 13 turnovers, leading to 22 Northern Iowa points. Armstead committed four of them, none more painful than the final one.
"We didn't finish down the stretch," Armstead said. "That last one, I kicked it out of bounds. You can't win games like that."
James scored 16 for the Panthers (12-11, 5-6), including six straight during a crucial second-half stretch.
The Panthers took control with a 14-0 run that gave them a 46-36 lead with 7:21 to play. James got loose dribbling around screens to burn the Shockers on mid-range jumpers. The Shockers cut the lead to 46-41 before Northern Iowa guard Deon Mitchell beat the shot clock with a long 3-pointer.
Northern Iowa took advantage of nine turnovers to score 17 points and stay even with No. 15 Wichita State, 23-23, at halftime in the McLeod Center.
NOTES: Marshall needs one win to move into third on the program's career list. He entered Saturday's game with 128, tied with Mark Turgeon. ... Northern Iowa, shooting 75.7 percent from the foul line, made 9 of 16 (56.3 percent). ... Northern Iowa beat a ranked opponent for the first time since a 2012 win over No. 13 Creighton. The Panthers lost to No. 2 Louisville, No. 19 Memphis, No. 21 UNLV and No. 12 Creighton this season. ... Hall's 20 points are his most since he returned from a broken thumb on Jan. 16.