#22 Panthers drop Wichita State for 20th win - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

#22 Panthers drop Wichita State for 20th win

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CEDAR FALLS(AP) -- Kwadzo Ahelegbe scored 18 points, 15 in the second half, and the University of Northern Iowa (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) hung on to beat Wichita State 59-56 on Wednesday night.

Jordan Eglseder added 15 points for the Panthers (20-2, 11-1 MVC), who avenged a 60-51 loss at Wichita State on Jan. 19 and took a commanding three-game lead atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings.

Wichita State (19-5, 8-4 MVC) buried consecutive 3-pointers to pull within 58-56 with 1:54 left, then got the ball back on a UNI turnover with 31 seconds left. But Toure' Murry missed a 3 from the elbow, and Clevin Hannah's desperation heave bounced off the rim.

Murry had 17 points to lead Wichita State, which shot 10 of 17 from the free-throw line.

It was a typical Valley slugfest, with baskets and style points in short supply. But that's exactly the kind of play the pesky Panthers excel at.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Ahelegbe shook off a terrible first half and carried the Panthers offense down the stretch.

Ahelegbe drilled a pull-up 15-footer and muscled a tough layup in traffic to put Northern Iowa ahead 44-41 with 8:34 left. Eglseder's three-point play off a steal by Ali Farokhmanesh gave the Panthers a 47-41 lead. Wichita State quickly cut it to one, but Ahelegbe followed a 3 with yet another mid-range jumper to give Northern Iowa a 53-46 lead with just under 4 minutes left.

Ahelegbe was 1 of 9 from the field in the first half but finished 8 of 18, helping save an offense that shot just 38 percent from the field.

Gabe Blair added 12 points for the Shockers, who fell to 5-4 on the road.

The Panthers missed 12 of their first 15 shots and fell behind by as much as 18-10. But after a hot start, Wichita State could only muster four points during a 9 1/2-minute stretch late in the first half, allowing UNI to jump ahead 25-22.

Murry and Hannah responded with 3s in the final 1:18 to give the Shockers a 28-27 halftime lead -- despite that Northern Iowa outrebounded them 10-0 on the offensive glass.

The loss at Wichita State is the only hiccup in the Valley so far for the Panthers, who now seem poised to run away with the league title.

UNI hasn't been flashy -- in fact, it needed a late rally to steal a 55-54 win at Missouri State last weekend -- but its suffocating defense was once again enough to help the Panthers survive.

UNI entered play second in the nation in scoring defense at 55.1 points per game.

Though Wichita State has rattled off one of the better starts in school history, it still lacks a signature road win. Its biggest wins to date, against Northern Iowa and Texas Tech, both came at home.

The Shockers do have a chance to finish strong, though. They play four of their final six conference games at home and have two games left against last-place Evansville.

UNI will be in action again Saturday at 5:05 p.m. against Southern Illinois in the McLeod Center.

Online reporter Mark Woodley

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