Feb. 25, 2010
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By Sean Neugent
EVANSTON, Ill. — Iowa had eight days to study Big Ten Conference-rival Northwestern, but the Hawkeyes could not find an answer to the vicious offensive attack from the Wildcats on Thursday night, losing 74-57 inside Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern (18-10 overall, 7-9 Big Ten) was out for revenge after Iowa won earlier in the season to cripple any hope of getting into the Big Dance in March.
Revenge was evident.
With the game in cruise control the Wildcats did not let up, even playing a half-court press in the second half with a 20-point lead.
“We definitely came out flat tonight compared to a few weeks ago,” UI guard Matt Gatens said. “They were running their stuff and we weren’t responding. It’s just too bad we didn’t come out ready. When a team like this gets confidence they are definitely tough to stop.”
“When you have eight days off you definitely want to take a couple days off and try to freshen them up,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “What happened was that I think we got stale. Give this team (Northwestern) a lot of credit — they broke into the top 25 at the end of December and are playing everyone tough. This is a team that is very good. You have to give them a lot of credit for not liking what happened in Iowa City.”
The Hawkeyes (9-19, 3-12) wanted to control the tempo early. On the first possession Iowa let the shot clock run all the way down before Cully Payne drove to the hoop and hit a layup to go up 2-0. On the second possession the Hawkeyes were a little too patient and committed a turnover after the shot clock ran out.
The Wildcats than went on a 15-4 run for a 15-6 advantage. There was not much going in the Hawkeyes favor after Aaron Fuller had to take a seat on the bench with early foul trouble. Eric May hit a midrange jumper to trail 17-9 before John Shurna answered with two 3-pointers in a row. It was part of 12-consecutive points for Shurna. ,p>Iowa looked rusty on offense in the early going and the usually defensive-minded Hawkeyes team could not stop the Wildcat offensive attack. Northwestern looked just as good from the outside as they did inside taking a commanding 31-11 lead with 6:36 remaining in the first half.
Payne drained a long-range jumper for only the second basket in an eight-minute stretch during the first half for Iowa. Shurna continued to give the Hawkeyes problems with his seventh straight field goal off of a layup. Northwestern led at half 39-19 as Shurna accounted for 18 of their first half points.
“We definitely came out flat tonight compared to a few weeks ago. They were running their stuff and we weren’t responding. It’s just too bad we didn’t come out ready. When a team like this gets confidence they are definitely tough to stop.”
“We thought (the days off) would be good because we have some guys logging a lot of minutes,” Gatens said. “We were getting some rest after not playing for eight days. We thought we were ready and we were excited because the last time we fought hard and we know we can play well against this team, but we came out flat.”
The Hawkeyes had enough coming out of halftime. Gatens quickly put Iowa on the board on their first possession of the second half. Fuller stole a pass from Shurna and the Hawkeyes got it back into the hands of Gatens for a midrange jumper to trail 39-23.
The Wildcats quickly made that margin up as Iowa again struggled to find the range. Jeremy Nash drove to the basket and hit a layup before he was fouled by Jarryd Cole. He hit the free throw for the three-point play and a 48-26 lead.
The ball continued to bounce in the Wildcats favor. Michael Thompson threw an alley-oop to Shurna who attempted to dunk it, but the ball bounced straight and high up in the air before settling through the net. The Hawkeyes continued to work hard and gave the ball to May who hit a layup, was fouled and hit his free throw to push within 22-points. Northwestern again answered when Nash drilled a 3-pointer.
John Lickliter was fouled on his way to the hoop and hit two free throws before Gatens drained a two-point jumper to close the gap, 56-41 with 9:06 remaining.
The Hawkeyes started to find their groove and had plenty of time to make it a game. They kept pushing, scoring on five straight possessions. May hit a layup and with 3:58 remaining Iowa found themselves within reach, down only 12-points.
That was as close as they would come after Payne was blocked by Nash on a layup attempt and made a layup on the other end to seal the victory for the Wildcats. Northwestern set a school-record for wins after the victory over the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes shot 17 of 43 (40 percent) from the floor, 3 of 21 (14 percent) from 3-point range, and 20 of 25 (80 percent) from the free throw line. Northwestern was an impressive 28 of 48 (58 percent) from the field. The biggest difference in the game came off of 14 turnovers that led to 22 Wildcat points.
“Give them credit, they picked us apart tonight,” Lickliter said. “Bill (Carmody) had them prepared and they out-executed us, no question.”
Gatens quietly had an efficient game leading the Hawkeyes with 15 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists. Payne added 10 for Iowa. Shurna torched Iowa for 29 points while Nash added 15.
The Hawkeyes will head back home to face Indiana on Sunday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 5:05 p.m. tipoff.