Hawkeyes bounced from Big Ten Tournament by Northwestern

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — Before the Big Ten Tournament, doubt had begun to creep into the minds of Iowa men’s basketball fans. They no longer saw a team that could make a deep tournament run; instead, they saw one clinging to an NCAA Tournament spot.

Thursday night, six-seed Iowa gave fans more reason to doubt as the Hawkeyes were bounced out of the Big Ten tourney with a 67-62 loss to 11th-seeded Northwestern.

“I think when you’re losing, it’s never one thing,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffrey said, trying to describe what has gone wrong.

Coming into this game, the Hawks had the Big Ten’s top-ranked offense, averaging 82.6 points per game. But in their matchup with the Wildcats, baskets were hard to come by.

Iowa — a team typically praised for its depth — struggled on seemingly every possession to get a clean look. Never getting anything going in transition, Iowa had to rely on its half-court offense.

The result was a 32.3 percent shooting night from the field, including 6-of-24 shooting from 3-point land. That was a result of numerous factors, McCaffrey said.

“Offensively, we’re struggling,” he said. “Is that execution? Is it offensive patience? Is it poor execution in transition?”

This slower paced, grind-it-out style of play seemed to favor Northwestern — which averages 59.5 points per game.

“Our whole plan coming into this game was to keep it in the 60s,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “We would have to make some plays and execute, and that’s what we were able to do.”

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Someone who’s shown they can adjust to any style of play is senior Devyn Marble, who finished with a team high 25 points, but he took 18 shots to get there.

With every punch that Iowa threw, Northwestern responded with one of its own.

Whether it be following Jarrod Uthoff’s three-straight 3-pointers to put that Hawkeyes up by 6 in the first half, or when Iowa seemed poised to close out the first half on a big run, each time, the Wildcats responded with a run of their own.

“I think that part of that is experience,” Northwestern’s Drew Crawford said. “As guys get more confortable on the court, we get more confortable with each other. Basketball is a game of runs; there are always going to be teams going on runs against you, and you have to be able to deal with that adversity.”

The final dagger for Iowa was a Tre Demps fade-away jumper in the middle of the lane with 54 seconds left on the clock. The shot put Northwestern up by 6 points and forced Iowa to finish out the game on 3-point attempts after Northwestern foul shots.

Iowa’s NCAA Tournament fate will be decided March 16, and if the Hawkeyes’ name is called, it will likely be for a much worse seed than one would have predicted a couple of weeks ago.

“You can’t start pointing fingers and blaming each other. My conversation after the game was very positive,” McCaffrey said. “I believe in this team and the character that we have in that locker room.”

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