CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) _ Iowa's Jess Settles has been steady for the Hawkeyes in their first six games. In game seven against Northern Iowa, he was supreme.

Settles, the Big Ten freshman of the year two years ago before a back injury last year slowed him, entered the game averaging 12 points and five rebounds. But the 6-foot-7 junior stepped it up against the Panthers, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds as No. 12 Iowa got by the Panthers 78-73 Tuesday night.

``I wanted to get Jess in there as many minutes as possible. It was a pretty strong game for Jess. It probably was his best game of the year so far,'' Iowa coach Tom Davis said as the Hawkeyes beat Northern Iowa for the sixth straight year.

Settles hit eight of 13 shots, including two of three 3-pointers, as the Hawkeyes (6-1) overcame 22 turnovers and off-nights by leading scorers Russ Millard and Chris Kingsbury.

Millard, averaging 16.7 points, had just four while Kingsbury, the team's best 3-point shooter averaging 16.2 points coming off the bench, had 13. Kingsbury hit only four of 10 shots from the field and missed all five long-range shots.

Iowa compensated by pounding the boards, grabbing 52 rebounds to Northern Iowa's 25.

``That's scary. That's real scary. You're going to have a long, tough deal if you've got that kind of difference,'' Northern Iowa coach Eldon Miller said.

``We just weren't good enough. Let's not make it complicated. We just did not keep them away from the basket,'' he said.

Andre Woolridge and Ryan Bowen each finished with 12 points for Iowa. Jason Daisy led the Panthers (2-1) with 23 points, Brian Carpenter had 16 and Jason Sims 11 to go with his 10 rebounds.

The Panthers trailed 37-33 at halftime and kept Iowa within five points for most of the second half. But the Hawkeyes finally broke away with the help of a clutch basket by Bowen on a perfectly executed pick and roll and built a 78-65 lead with less than a minute to play before Northern Iowa closed with a rush.

``I think Ryan Bowen's the most underrated player in the nation. He does all the little things. He's a jump shot away from being a great all-around player,'' Settles said.

After Bowen's shot, the Hawkeyes began pulling away and had a big enough lead to survive Northern Iowa's eight-point run in the final seconds.

``I don't think it was so much what they did as what we didn't do,'' Kingsbury said. ``We didn't do the things we wanted to do offensively and we didn't do the things we wanted to do defensively. Sometimes you have nights like that and you have to overcome it and we did.''

Daisy made a 3-pointer and a layup after stealing the inbounds pass, and Carpenter followed with a 3-pointer after Kingsbury was called for traveling, cutting it to 78-73. But only 3.4 seconds remained and Iowa survived, winning for the 24th time in 26 meetings with the Panthers.

``We just weren't quite as assertive as I thought we would be, which bothered me a little bit,'' Miller said. ``We made some mistakes, made some turnovers we shouldn't have made. I thought we could beat them, but we didn't.''

Davis said the Hawkeyes would have been in big trouble had they not hit the boards so hard.

``I think the rebounding is the story,'' Davis said. ``I thought they were beating us to the ball, outhustling us. They got us back on our heels a little bit.

``We just started playing better and better and our intensity rose to the level that they started playing with.''