For Wildcat basketball, it’s either a heartbreaking loss or a heart-stopping win. Saturday night against the Iowa Hawkeyes marked one of Northwestern’s most exciting wins of the season. After trailing 28-13 just 10 minutes into the first half, Northwestern darted off on a 27-5 run that helped to pull off one of the team’s biggest come-from-behind wins of the season. The 70-66 victory in this must-win game was exactly what the Wildcats needed to boost morale after a tough loss to Ohio State, and to keep their spirits up as they enter the Big Ten tournament.
15 – The biggest deficit Northwestern faced. Not only did the Wildcats make up the 15 points over the course of the second half, but they managed to win with a four-point margin. Considering the multitude of one-point or two-point defeats the Wildcats have endured, a four-point victory must feel like a blowout.
11 – The total number of Wildcat steals. Drew Crawford led the way with five steals, and an impressive six out of the eight Wildcats to play contributed to the stealing game. These forced turnovers were crucial in propelling the Wildcats along their 15-point comeback.
7 – The minutes it took for the Wildcats to surge back from a 15-point deficit to tie the game at with two minutes left in the first half. Those seven minutes were characterized by three-point shots and free throws, which seem to be Northwestern’s specialty as of late. Drew Crawford hit a three-pointer when the Wildcats were down 28-13 to start the rally. This was followed with another long-ball by Alex Marcutullio and a three consecutive free throws by Dave Sobolewski.
3 – The number of lead changes in the first half, as well as the number of times the score was tied.
0 – The number of lead changes in the second half. Once the Wildcats took the lead at the end of the first half, there was no turning back.
Play of the game:
Drew Crawford’s lucky number must have been three. His cold-blooded three-point shot sparked the Wildcats’ come back. After switching to a 1-3-1 zone, Crawford retaliated with a steal that brought Northwestern back to within 10 points. When the game was tied at 33 with 1:33 left in the first half, Crawford hit three free throws in a row. These free throws were enough to give the Wildcats a three-point advantage, leading the Hawkeyes 36-33. And with this, the Wildcats had taken the lead and never once looked back.
One more thing: Crawford ended the game with 18 points, which is a multiple of three. This is Northwestern, after all.
Sixth man of the game: Davide Curletti
Davide Curletti played to impress in his last home game as a Northwestern Wildcat. Clocking 22 minutes and tallying seven points, Curletti came through in the clutch as Northwestern surged during the first half. Curletti’s layup tied the game at 33, marking the last tie score the game would see. He also contributed two assists – not bad for a big man.
Where does Northwestern stand?
With a final Big Ten record of 8-10, Northwestern will take the No. 7 seed as it enters the Big Ten tournament. Ironically, the Wildcats share this seed with the Hawkeyes, who have an identical conference record. That being said, had Northwestern lost this game, it would have fallen in the standings; this must-win game was everything the ‘Cats needed to keep holding on to their tournament hopes. If the Wildcats can make a major run in the Big Ten tournament, there can still be hope, but first, Northwestern must face Minnesota on Thursday. And, as with most Wildcat games, a win is much needed.