Iowa back in action after long layoff


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Bill Carmody didn’t have the answers.

The Northwestern coach shook his head, stared at the stat sheet, and spoke in a hushed tone following Iowa’s 78-65 win over the Wildcats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena two weeks ago.

How could Northwestern, a team with its first NCAA Tournament bid on the line, look so unprepared? How could Devan Bawinkel, a player averaging 3.2 points per game, go off for 15 on five 3-pointers? How could Iowa, which hadn’t shot above 42 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten play, nail 12-of-24 triples?

Too many questions and not enough answers.

“We just got smacked pretty good; I don’t know what else to say,” Carmody said at the time.

Iowa and head coach Todd Lickliter will roll into Evanston today, hoping to play spoiler once again at 6:02 p.m. in the Welsh-Ryan Arena. This time, the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losses, while the well-rested Hawkeyes are playing their first game in nine days.

Lickliter’s squad has lost 21 of its last 23 Big Ten road contests.

“We proved we can [upset the Wildcats] once,” junior Jarryd Cole said. “There’s no reason we can’t do it twice.”

The Hawkeyes lost their last game, 80-78, an overtime heartbreaker to Michigan. In that game, Aaron Fuller scored a career-high 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting and snagged 13 rebounds.

The sophomore has earned a double-double in three of his last four games, one of which came against Northwestern. Fuller is now second in the conference in offensive rebounds at 2.9 per game.

“I feel more conditioned this time around,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s just more of an effort thing. I just try to go after it and get the ball and try to get my team second-chance shots.”

Sophomore Matt Gatens, who has averaged 12.4 points over his last five contests, is coming off a 21-point, eight-rebound performance against Michigan on Feb. 16. He also scored 16 on 2-of-5 from 3-point range against Northwestern last time.

The Iowa City native, along with Bawinkel’s five triples, propelled the Hawkeyes to one of their best shooting nights of the year.

“That night, we happened to be pretty good shooters,” Lickliter said. “We’ll need to do that again.”

On the defensive end, the Hawkeyes will face a familiar conundrum in defending Carmody’s Princeton offense.

If Lickliter’s defense chooses to not guard the perimeter tightly, then Northwestern is likely to rely on its outside game, where it ranks third-best in the Big Ten at 3-point shooting (36.4 percent).

When Iowa’s perimeter defenses starts to creep up on the Wildcats’ outside shooters, the patented back-cuts of the Princeton offense take effect.

“You’ve got to love the system,” Lickliter said.

The Hawkeyes had success against Carmody’s system on Feb. 10, holding Northwestern to 8-of-26 shooting from outside and only allowing a few back-cuts late in the game.

It helped, of course, that the Wildcats’ star player, sophomore John Shurna, was held to 6-of-15 shooting from the field. The lanky forward, who has scored 20-plus points six times in conference play, has scored in single-digits only three times all season.

Perhaps of greater concern to Lickliter and Company is Northwestern freshman Michael Thompson, who scored 20 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range in the teams’ last meeting.

“We’ll probably have to play a lot better up there,” Lickliter said. “We really didn’t guard very well, but we got fortunate, and they missed shots. And they don’t miss a lot of shots. They won’t miss up there.”

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