Northern Iowa (17-11, 10-6 MVC) started the second half with a 10-2 run to extend its lead to 11 and held off a late challenge from Missouri State to claim a 69-63 road win over the Bears here Tuesday at JQH Arena. MSU (8-20, 6-10) got a career high 25 points from freshman Marcus Marshall and 12 from Christian Kirk, while Keith Pickens contributed a team-high 7 rebounds to go with 9 points.

UNI, which won its sixth straight game, was led by Seth Tuttle with 19 points and 17 boards, while Anthony James tacked on 17 points, including 7 in the final two minutes, in addition to a game-high 8 assists.

After falling behind 40-29 to start the second half, the Bears began inching their way back in the game. Over a four-minute span, the Bears got a 3-pointer from Pickens, a traditional 3-point play from Anthony Downing and a trey by Marshall to climb back within 44-38 at the 12-minute mark.

Pickens closed the gap to three with a 3-point play just over two minutes later, making it 46-43 with 9:44 to go. But UNI answered the run with a trey by Matt Bohannon and a layup by James in traffic to push its lead back to 10 when James capitalized on a block call and knocked down a short jumper to make it 55-45 with just under seven minutes left.

The Bears got to the line 10 times over the next five minutes, including a three-shot opportunity by Marshall that started a 10-4 MSU run. A pair of charity shots by Kirk with 2:24 on the clock made it a 59-55 contest and brought the home crowd of 5,704 back into it.

The four-point margin held until the final minute of the game. A missed free throw by James with 41.3 seconds to go opened the door breifly for the home team, and a layup by Kirk with 33.7 ticks to go made it a one-possession game, 64-61.

Marshall fouled James on the ensuing in-bound play, but this time the senior from St. Louis did not miss. James’ two charity makes opened the Panthers’ lead back to five points, and the Bears’ last-minute heroics dried up when Pickens was muscled into a missed a close-range jumper by a physical Northern Iowa defense with 20 seconds remaining. Ben Jacobson’s squad made 3-of-4 free throws from there, and Downing scored on a coast-to-coast layup to run the final margin to 69-63.

Northern Iowa moved into sole possession of third place in the Valley standings by making 22-of-48 (.458) shots on the night, including 6-of-22 (.273) from beyond the arc — just one trey in the second half. The Panthers also out-rebounded the Bears 28-27, committed just 5 turnovers and knocked down 19-of-23 (.826) foul shots, including 18-of-20 over the last 20 minutes.

Missouri State was 21-of-47 (.447) from the field, 5-of-15 (.333) beyond the arc and a season-best 16-for-17 (.941) at the line. The Bears, who rank sixth nationally in fewest turnovers, had just 9 mishaps on the night.

MSU’s lone senior Anthony Downing accounted for 9 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

With the help of Marshall’s 25 points, Missouri State’s freshman class upped it season scoring total to 752, breaking the club’s old record of 735 frosh points set by the fabled 1963-64 newbies of Coach Bill Thomas.

In the first half, a late 8-0 run by the Panthers put them up 30-27 at the intermission. MSU jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the first four-and-a-half minutes with Marshall scoring six of the Bears’ first 15 out of the gates.

UNI responded with a 9-0 run with four different Panthers scoring as part of the visitors’ comeback that made it a 15-14 game at the 8:03 mark. A 3-pointer by Deon Mitchell put UNI up for the first time, 19-17, with 5:51 to go in the opening stanza, but the Bears responded by retaking the lead twice more with 3-pointers from Marshall and Nathan Scheer.

Scheer’s trey at the 2:23 point gave MSU a 25-23 lead before the Panthers reeled off the game’s next 8 points with Sonnen drilling a pair of long bombs to put UNI up 30-25. The Bears laughed last with a pair of free throws from Marshall with 4.5 seconds to go to make it a three-point contest at the break.

The Bears take a break from conference play this Saturday when they travel to Eastern Michigan (12-13) from the Mid-America Conference for an 11 a.m. (Central) tipoff against the Eagles in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters series.

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