DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — For the first time this season, Iowa State found itself staring at a loss — and a blowout one at that.
The Cyclones took the lead with an historic run, lost it on a banked-in 3 to end regulation and grabbed it for good with a dominant performance in overtime.
Melvin Ejim scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and OT and 17th-ranked Iowa State rallied from 18 points down to beat Northern Iowa 91-82 on Saturday for its best start in 10 years.
Georges Niang added a career-high 22 points for Iowa State (7-0). It snapped a 3-game losing streak against the rival Panthers (3-5), whose slower tempo often flummoxed the up-and-down Cyclones.
"This happens, where you come out a little bit flat, the other team senses it, jumps on you. Then you're playing from behind on a team that's try to take time off the shot clock and control it," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Once we started defending, getting active hands, getting turnovers...we turned it around."
Iowa State went on a 23-2 run midway through the second half to erase a 49-31 deficit. But Northern Iowa's Seth Tuttle banked in a 3 with 1.3 seconds left to force OT.
Ejim responded with back-to-back 3s to put the Cyclones ahead 82-75 with 1:18 left. Iowa State was 5-of-7 shooting in OT and 8 of 9 from the line.
Nate Buss had 23 points and Wes Washpun scored 18 with eight assists for Northern Iowa, which was outscored 60-33 in the final 21:46.
"Great teams find a way to win games like this," Hoiberg said.
There was nothing great about Iowa State in the first 24 minutes, when it fell behind 18 points on a neutral floor in Des Moines.
It was by far the biggest deficit the Cyclones had seen all year.
It didn't last long.
Iowa State quickly cut the Northern Iowa's lead to six when Ejim banked in a 19-footer. Niang gave the Cyclones the lead on back-to-back baskets, and DeAndre Kane found Ejim for an alley-oop dunk that put them ahead 54-51 with 9:04 to go.
Ejim's 3 made it 70-64 with 1:14 left in regulation, and it looked as if the Cyclones had finally sealed the win.
But Tuttle, a 6-foot-8 post player, threw up a desperation heave from the top of the key that somehow found the glass and the net.
"We had that momentum. We fought back and put ourselves in a position to win. We were energized after that play. We definitely thought we had a good chance going into overtime," Buss said.
But Northern Iowa just didn't have enough left to stop the Cyclones in OT.
Kane had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Cyclones, and Dustin Hogue added 17 points and 14 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
Iowa State had made a habit out of blowing away overmatched opponents as quickly as possible.
But it didn't take long for the Panthers to prove they could do more than just hang with the Cyclones.
Back-to-back 3s by freshman Jeremy Morgan made it 22-9 Northern Iowa. Hoiberg called timeout to settle his team down, and they responded with a 10-0 run to get back in the game.
The Panthers kept coming though.
Northern Iowa's half-court offense gave the Cyclones fits, and Tuttle's 3-point play helped give the Panthers a 42-29 halftime lead.
It was by far the worst half Iowa State had played all year. It only got worse after the break, as Northern Iowa quickly extended its lead to 49-31.
But the Cyclones rallied behind their Ejim, Kane and their powerful transition game to avoid yet another loss to their instate rivals.
"First half was just plain tough to get. Just couldn't get anything going as team. Our body language was bad. We just couldn't get on a roll. At halftime we came out and started playing our type of basketball and making shots and it really just turned over for us," Ejim said.
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP