Well, who saw this coming? Northwestern, the worst offensive team in the conference by a country mile, waltzed out onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court and handed Iowa a 67-62 loss that could make Selection Sunday a little more nervy than anticipated for the Hawkeyes, who fall to 20-12 on the year.
The game went back and forth all the way up until halftime, when Roy Devyn Marble and Tre Demps traded threes on each teams' final possession to level the game at 31 apiece heading to the locker rooms. Most would've given Iowa the advantage in the second stanza, especially after Northwestern allowed them into the bonus with less then five minutes gone in the half.
But the Wildcats showed resilience, not allowing Fran McCaffery's pressure defense to get the best of the usually turnover-prone backcourt. Demps and Drew Crawford made play after play and before they knew it the Hawkeyes were facing elimination despite the best efforts of Marble, who couldn't will his team to victory despite his heroic play down the stretch.
Chris Collins' Cats had to be immense in this one, and they were - even Dave Sobolewski, who was 12-72 from three on the year until tonight, hit two late triples to extend Northwestern's lead late in the game. Tre Demps led all scorers in purple with 20 points on 8-12 shooting, and Drew Crawford extended his final season with a 15-point effort. The Wildcats shot a scorching 52.3% from the field, a sizable improvement on their 40% season average. Iowa, once a shoe-in for 80 points a night, failed to reach that plateau for the third game running (all losses). Northwestern's defense stifled Iowa's non-Marble starters, who combined for just seven points. Mike Gesell was 0-10 from the field and second-leading scorer Aaron White couldn't find enough opportunities to make a real impact with just shots from the floor.
Northwestern advances to face Michigan State in Friday's late game, while Iowa will be rooting for all the conference tournament favorites juuuuust in case Illinois makes a run to the final, where many bracketologists are now of the opinion that such a run will see the Illini in at the expense of another bubble team:
— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) March 14, 2014