Tyler Brown led ISU on offense with 28 points. (Photo By B Corbin/WJBC)
By The Associated Press
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Anthony James scored 19 points Saturday night as Northern Iowa defeated Illinois State 80-72 in the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season finale for both schools.
Despite the loss, Illinois State secured the No. 6 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament thanks to a Southern Illinois win at Drake.
ISU avoids the Thursday play-in game and will face No. 3 Northern Iowa in a rematch on Friday night.
"The play-in game does a lot on your body. That fourth day you really feel it," said senior Tyler Brown. "I remember last year in the championship I really felt it so another day would have been horrible for us but I'm just happy about the outcome."
Brown led the Redbirds (17-14, 8-10) with 28 points and nine rebounds. Johnny Hill scored 14 for Illinois State.
Northern Iowa held a 42-26 rebounding advantage, including 19 offensive boards that led to an 18-4 edge in second-chance points.
Coach Muller said he's disappointed in the loss to close the regular season, but he thinks ISU can make a run in the tournament.
"You go out, you play well, you let it all hang out and hopefully you survive and advance and it's a lot of fun. The team that plays with the most freedom, confidence and discipline is the one that's going to come out on top," he said.
Illinois State faces UNI at 8:35 p.m. on Friday night. Listen to the game on WJBC AM 1230, FM 93.7 and on WJBC.com.
Paul Morello contributed to this story.