NORMAL, Ill. — The Illinois State Redbirds came alive after halftime and upended the Northern Iowa Panthers, 76-70, in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams at Redbird Arena on Tuesday.
Northern Iowa (11-2, 0-1) was hurt by 17 turnovers, including 10 in the first half.
“The first half we had a great opportunity to get way ahead,” UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said on the Panther Radio Network. “When you have that opportunity, you best take advantage of it.”
UNI led 30-20 at half, but it could have been more. Illinois State (6-7, 1-0) opened the second half on a 21-8 run and took the lead.
“They were switching things up a little bit,” Austin Phyfe said. “Their guys were knocking down shots; our communication was down a little bit.”
Trailing 69-63 with 2:29 to play, UNI rallied to tie it up. Isaiah Brown got a steal that led to an AJ Green 3-pointer to make it 70-70.
But the Redbirds hit 6-of-6 at the foul line in the final 40 seconds. Illinois State finished 20 of 24 at the foul line.
Green led the Panthers with 23 points.
Phyfe had 13 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double.
DJ Horne had a season-best 22 points for the Redbirds.
UNI returns to MVC play Saturday at home against Bradley.