The Iowa Hawkeyes and Northwestern Wildcats came into their tilt on Sunday going in different directions. It's been a tough year for the Wildcats, but a win against the Hawkeyes would give them some momentum to close the year out with. Iowa, on the other hand, was coming off a disappointing loss against Minnesota. It appeared to be the perfect game for Iowa to gain their confidence back.
This appeared to be a blowout on paper, but things don't always play out that way. This one turned out to be a thriller and one of the best Big Ten games this week. Iowa dug themselves a hole early. They trailed by as much as 9 in the 1st half, but they cut the deficit to 4 by halftime. The game was back and forth in then on. Northwestern's Nathan Taphorn made a 3 with under a minute to play to give the Wildcats a 2 point edge. Jarrod Uthoff answered back with two clutch 3s of his own to send the game to overtime. The Wildcats were able to win the game in overtime thanks to clutch free throw shooting. This was Northwestern's 2nd conference win and one they can be proud of.
What We Learned
Free throws win games
Free throws won the game for the Wildcats on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats converted on 15 of their 20 attempts from the line. It wasn't that they made 75% of their free throws, it was the times they did made them. Alex Olah converted on both of his attempts from the line after a missed 3 by Uthoff with less than 20 seconds to play. After a made 3 by Uthoff, Bryant McIntosh made both of his foul shots to give the Wildcats a 3 point lead. Uthoff then hit the game tying 3 to send it into overtime. If Northwestern misses one of those free throws they lose the game. They also scored 8 of their 12 points in overtime from the line. You have to credit them for pressing the issue and forcing Iowa to send them to the line.
Iowa's offense will go as far as Aaron White takes it
White was off on Sunday afternoon against the Wildcats. He finished with 6 points on 1-12 shooting. Iowa's offense isn't good enough to consistently overcome off nights from White. We saw in Iowa's previous game against Minnesota that they need White's scoring to win. Sunday against Minnesota was exactly the same. Iowa has a solid team, but they don't have much scoring outside of White and Uthoff. We saw that the Hawkeyes are a very beatable team when one of them is having an off night.
Jarrod Uthoff is clutch
Jarrod Uthoff made two clutch 3's in the waning seconds of regulation to force overtime. He showed us he has the ability to make the shot when the game is on the line. He finished with 25 points and went 8-16 on the night. Uthoff is a good scorer, but he does need some help. He was the only scorer in double figures for the Hawkeyes on Sunday afternoon.
Iowa is the most frustrating team to watch in the Big Ten
Last week Iowa blew out Michigan and Maryland. They appeared to be getting hot at just the right time, but then they lost 2 straight to Minnesota and Northwestern. You have to give credit to Minnesota and Northwestern for playing great games, but neither of those teams should beat the Hawkeyes. Iowa has now dug themselves a hole and have a lot of work to do before they can make the tournament.
Northwestern's resilience finally resulted in a win
You have to give credit to Wildcats' coach Chris Collins. I believe he will make Northwestern a top team in the Big Ten down the road, unfortunately they aren't now. This was only their second win in conference. But I do love the work ethic and passion that Collins has instilled in his players. You can tell his players love to play for him and will fight to the end, even when they're facing a team that's supposed to blow them out. The Wildcats have come close numerous times to knocking off good teams in the Big Ten but they haven't been able to until Sunday. Finally their hard work paid off in the win on Sunday. I can't wait to see where the former Duke assistant takes this program in the future.
There's no nice way to put it for Iowa, this loss was plain awful. Just a week ago the Hawkeyes appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, now they're a bubble team that has a lot of work to do to get in. We all chalked this one up as a W for Iowa, but that's why they play the games. The Hawkeyes have very winnable games at home against Rutgers and on the road against Nebraska, but after this loss nothing is a guarantee.
For Northwestern, this was a solid conference win. The Wildcats deserved this one. They've been so close so many times. This time they were able to pull off the upset. All their hard work and resilience have paid off for them. Let's see if they can build off the momentum of this win. They take on Minnesota and Penn State later this week.