All the teams on the bubble can breathe a sigh of relief.
The Northern Iowa Panthers entered the locker room at halftime of the Missouri Valley Tournament final down 36-22 to an Illinois State team hot off the heels of a huge upset win over the 9th-ranked Missouri Valley juggernaut Wichita State Shockers.
Northern Iowa had done just about everything wrong in the first half and, had it not been for their excellent ball protection (Northern Iowa turned the ball over only three times over the course of the game), the Illinois State lead would have probably been somewhere between 25 and 30 points rather than a manageable 14.
Northern Iowa came out much improved on both ends of the floor, opening the half with a 24-4 run behind smart offensive play and an impenetrable defense. The Panthers ended up outscoring the less-talented but fierce Illinois State Redbirds by 23 points in the second half to secure a 69-60 victory and a well-deserved Missouri Valley Conference championship. Nate Buss and Seth Tuttle led the charge for the Panthers with 15 points apiece.
The 11th-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers are now 30-3 on the year.