The Panthers (16-11, 9-6 Missouri Valley) shot 13 of 26 (50 percent) from behind the arc en route to their fifth win in a row. Sonnen had five 3-pointers; James and Chip Rank three apiece.
Rank, who had 11 points, hit the first of five consecutive Northern Iowa baskets from behind the arc to give the Panthers a 49-46 lead. Matt Bohannon, Rank again, James and Sonnen followed, and when that flurry was finished, Northern Iowa had a 61-50 cushion with 4:10 remaining. Drake got no closer than five points afterward, and that was in the final seconds.
Jake Koch had 11 points and three blocked shots for the Panthers.
Former Kentucky guard Ed Davender, the only Wildcat with at least 1,500 points and 400 assists, has died. He was 49.
Guard Naz Mitrou-Long, whose 2015-16 season ended in December due to hip problems, has been granted a hardship waiver for the coming season, Iowa State said.
As the Sooners look to life without superstar Buddy Hield and his sidekicks, it's clear their unseasoned players will need to grow up fast.