Anthony James had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Northern Iowa held on to beat Illinois State 53-51 on Wednesday night.
The Panthers (18-6, 9-3) won their eighth straight in the Missouri Valley, but it wasn't easy as the Redbirds (11-12, 3-9) managed to stay close. Northern Iowa went ahead for good at 40-38 when Lucas O'Rear scored with 9:28 left, beginning an 8-0 Panthers run. Illinois State got within one point three different times down the stretch.
Northern Iowa didn't have a field goal in the final 5 minutes, but James made two free throws and Kwadzo Ahelegbe made three in the final 32 seconds.
Anthony Cousin scored 15 points to lead Illinois State, which had won three in a row. Trey Blue scored 13 for the Redbirds.
Northern Iowa won the schools' earlier meeting 46-44 at Illinois State on Jan. 12.