St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - After a quiet first half, Seth Tuttle emerged and reminded MVC fans why he was voted the league's top player.
Tuttle finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and the 11th-ranked Panthers rallied past Illinois State 69-60 to win the Missouri Valley championship.
Nate Buss added 15 points off the bench and Deon Mitchell netted 10 for Northern Iowa (30-3).
Daishon Knight and Deontae Hawkins scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Illinois State (21-12), which stunned No. 8 Wichita State to reach the finals.
The Redbirds eyed another upset in this one and got off to a remarkable start, limiting UNI to eight points on 3-for-20 shooting over the first 11-plus minutes. Meanwhile, Knight had seven by himself, Justin McCloud added six off the bench with a pair of 3-pointers and ISU led 21-8 near the midpoint of the first half.
McCloud made all three of his 3-point tries in the first half, Knight scored 11 and the Redbirds owned a 36-22 halftime advantage.
But the second half told a different story. Tuttle scored twice to open the period, then Jeremy Morgan caught fire from deep. The sophomore hit three triples in five minutes, the last of which gave Northern Iowa a 44-40 lead.
The Panthers used a remarkable 25-4 run to open the second half to claim control. After ISU tied it at 47-47 on a Hawkins 3, Buss and Matt Bohannon hit from deep on consecutive possessions.
UNI's lead reached nine on a pair of Buss free throws at 2:44. Hawkins and Knight hit deep 3-pointers in the final two minutes to give the Redbirds a chance, but they never got closer then five down the stretch.
Northern Iowa has won four straight games in this series ... This was Northern Iowa's first win since Jan. 28 that didn't come by double figures ... UNI scored 15 points off nine ISU turnovers and committed just three as a team ... Illinois State hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1997-98, when head coach Dan Muller was a senior forward.