– The Missouri Valley Conference player of the year looked the part when it counted. His Northern Iowa teammates stepped up, too, when the game looked hopeless.

Seth Tuttle had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists, leading the 11th-ranked Panthers back from an 18-point first-half deficit to beat Illinois State 69-60 in the MVC tournament championship game on Sunday.

The Panthers (30-3), who took control with a 25-4 run that erased a 36-22 halftime deficit, won the title for the third time in seven years and have won 19 of 20 games.

"That was different than just about every game I've been a part of," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "We had more than our hands full at halftime."

The Panthers shot 23 percent from the field in the first half and 54 percent the rest of the way, and held Illinois State to 33 percent in the second half.

"We were the ones on our heels, and we just told each other, 'That's what we've got to do, we've got to reverse it,' " Tuttle said. "It was a lot of fun to be a part of that."

Fourth-seeded Illinois State (21-12) needed a win to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. The Redbirds upset top seed Wichita State in the semifinals.

Associated Press