Pete Nance goes for the bucket over Iowa in the 'Cats 96-73 loss to the Hawkeyes. Nance led Northwestern with 16 points, but the 'Cats could not keep up with Iowa's high-power offense. Photo Courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

In a fan-less stadium, under the pressure of a four-game losing streak, Northwestern men’s basketball (6-6, 3-5 B1G), fell to Iowa (12-2, 6-1 B1G) on Sunday afternoon by more than 20 points. The Wildcats struggled under Iowa’s offensive dominance, starting the second half with a double-digit deficit before eventually losing the game 96-73.

Northwestern started the game strong, matching Iowa’s shots for most of the first half. The Hawkeyes are second in the country for most points scored per game (92.2) and started with offensive energy which seemed to defend their ranking. Constantly challenging Northwestern on defense, the Hawkeyes came out with an early 19-9 lead.  

Northwestern fought back as sophomore guard Boo Buie scored three unanswered 3-pointers to decrease the deficit. The Wildcats held their own with big plays from redshirt sophomore transfer Chase Audige and junior guard Ryan Greer. The ‘Cats gained their first lead of the game after a free throw from Greer, making the score 29-28.  

Two turnovers and nine consecutive missed baskets, however, badly shifted Northwestern's momentum. Unrelenting aggression from Iowa’s offense set the ‘Cats back once again, as the Hawkeyes finished the first half with a 49-37 lead.

“You know if you’re going to beat Iowa, you have to score,” Coach Chris Collins said. “The first 12 minutes we scored, it was 29-28, and then they just kept scoring.”

Collins noted that Northwestern expected this to be a high scoring game. Iowa’s notoriously strong shooting doesn’t leave much room for error, and it’s difficult to catch up when Northwestern shots aren’t going in.

“We knew what we were facing, with Iowa, they are truly one of the elite teams,” Collins said. “In order to compete and have a chance to beat a team like that, you have to play at a really high level on both ends.”

Junior guard Ryan Greer lines up a three-pointer over Iowa. Despite scoring 10 points off the bench, Greer was not able to provide the spark Northwestern needed as the game went on. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

The second half of the game was just as tough, and relentless shots from Iowa’s star players elevated their lead to more than 20 points. Iowa’s senior center Luka Garza had a predictably strong game, with 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes of play. At 6-11, Garza has dominated the conference so far this season and ranks first on ESPN’s list for top players in the league this year. Iowa’s junior forward Joe Wieskamp contributed 16 points as well, helping secure another Big Ten victory for the Hawkeyes and tying Michigan for first in the conference.  

A strong 16 point performance from Northwestern forward Pete Nance kept the Wildcats in the game, but the Wildcats seemed to lack the star power the team has seen in their previous victories against ranked opponents this season. Buie, who put up 30 points in the Northwestern win against Michigan State, and junior forward Miller Kopp, who shot 23 points to help the Wildcats beat Ohio State, were held to just 12 and 8 points respectively.

While the Wildcats fought through the entirety of the game, it seems as though missing baskets early on messed with their momentum more than they realized.

“The last two games we’ve allowed our offense to affect our energy level,” Coach Collins said. “Our ability to score early in the half took out some of our energy, and we just can’t have that.”

With a 3-5 record in one of the country’s toughest conferences, there are still a lot of chances for Northwestern to reverse their recent trend.

“We have to keep our spirit, we have to learn from these games. We have to learn from the things we can do better on both ends offensively and defensively and try to get ready for the next one,” Coach Collins said.

The ‘Cats will face No. 9 ranked Wisconsin Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT.

Time to run it back. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics.