EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Vedran Vukusic scored 26 points and converted the go-ahead three-point play to help Northwestern upset No. 18 Iowa 51-48 Wednesday night.
Fans stormed the court after the Wildcats beat the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes for the fourth time in five games – a celebration that Vukusic made possible.
Vukusic drove to his right for a layup and free throw that gave the Wildcats a 49-48 lead with 29.3 seconds left, and Northwestern (11-10, 4-6) hung on for its second win in eight games.
Iowa’s Adam Haluska missed a baseline drive and Northwestern’s Michael Jenkins knocked the ball off a Hawkeye and out of bounds with nine seconds left.
Vukusic – the lone Wildcat in double figures – then hit two free throws to make it 51-48 with 6.4 seconds left. He hit nine of 16 shots, including five of nine 3-pointers to move into a tie for second on Northwestern’s all-time list with Winston Blake at 200.
Greg Brunner hit just two of 11 shots but led Iowa (18-6, 7-3) with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Jeff Horner scored 10 for the Hawkeyes, whose four-game winning streak ended.
Both teams committed 17 turnovers.
After a poor first half, the Wildcats hit 10 of 16 shots in the second. Iowa never found its stroke, shooting 35.1 percent, but it led by nine before Northwestern made its move.
With his team down four, Vukusic buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to pull Northwestern to within 44-43 with 2:45 remaining. Horner, whose errant inbounds pass led to Vukusic’s 3, then hit three free throws, but the Wildcats weren’t finished.
They pulled to within one on Evan Seacat’s 3 with 2:09 left.
Given recent history, what happened was no surprise.
The Wildcats won by one in overtime last season on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jenkins, after rallying from 12 down with 3:27 left in regulation. And they beat Iowa by two in regulation two years ago on Vukusic’s long jumper with less than a second remaining.
This game was ugly but dramatic.
This sequence early in the second half summed up things.
First, a bounce pass by Iowa’s Greg Brunner’s scooted through the hands of an open Doug Thomas underneath. Northwestern’s Mohamed Hachad then tripped and lost his dribble, Iowa immediately turned the ball over, and Hachad committed a charge. Finally, Thomas mishandled another bounce pass – this one from Tony Freeman.
Northwestern chipped into the lead, with 3s by Craig Moore and Vukusic cutting it to 35-32 with 9:16 left in the game.