Men’s Basketball: Iowa nips NU at end of ugly contest

Matt Forman

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It was a war of attrition. And Northwestern lost.

Neither NU nor Iowa played well enough to deserve a win Saturday night in Iowa City. But even ugly games have winners and losers. In a game filled with miscues and mistakes, Iowa made one more clutch shot down the stretch.

“They made shots and we didn’t,” senior guard Craig Moore said. “It was that simple.”

That one extra shot was Devan Bawinkel’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:05 remaining that gave Iowa a 48-46 lead it did not relinquish.

With the Wildcats (13-8, 4-6) fouling, the Hawkeyes (13-11, 3-8) hit all eight of their free throws in the final 30 seconds to put the game on ice. For the game, Iowa shot 16-of-18 from the line.

On the ensuing possession after Bawinkel’s 3-pointer, sophomore guard Michael Thompson ran into Jeff Peterson and turned over the ball, ceding control of the game to a team that had lost its last four.

“I really don’t know,” freshman forward Luka Mirkovic said of what happened in the final minute. “Something was missing tonight. I don’t know what it was.”

While the rest of the Cats were unable to generate any offense in the second half, Moore kept NU in the game by hitting several long-distance shots. The first came with 6:55 remaining from the left wing.

Less than three minutes later, Moore outdid himself, nailing a shot from several feet beyond the 3-point line as he fell away from the basket to tie the game at 43.

After Iowa guard Jake Kelly connected on both free throws of a one-and-one, Mirkovic converted a layup off a screen-and-roll with Moore. Mirkovic, who ended with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting, was fouled on the play and hit the shot from the charity stripe to give NU a 46-45 lead with 1:29 on the clock.

That’s when Bawinkel hit the big shot, bringing the Hawkeye faithful to their feet and creating a raucous environment in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“In close games like that, usually the home team figures out what to do and comes through,” coach Bill Carmody said. “That’s what they did tonight.”

While the Cats were able to go wire-to-wire on the road, it didn’t always look like the game would be so close.

Iowa jumped out to an early 18-7 lead and appeared to be outhustling NU by winning the loose-ball opportunities, outrebounding the Cats 18-11 in the first half. After Carmody called a timeout halfway through the opening period, the Cats finished the period on a 14-6 run to go into the halftime trailing 24-21.

“I thought the first half was like a game of H.O.R.S.E. almost,” Carmody said.

In the first half NU shot just 6 of 21 while Iowa went 7-of-20, converting only on shots from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes came in shooting from long-range to help loosen the Cats’ staunch 1-3-1 zone that has given opponents problems over the last few games. The only lead NU held in the opening period came 20 seconds in when freshman center Kyle Rowley hit a free throw.

The next time NU tied the game was three minutes into the second half. But Iowa went on a 7-0 run to lead 38-31 with nine minutes left. Junior guard Jeremy Nash capped a 9-2 NU run with a running bank shot in the lane as the shot clock expired to tie the game at 40.

Despite Moore’s heroic efforts in the second half, he had to carry too much of NU’s offense, taking 18 of its 48 attempts from the field. The other members of the Cats’ Big Three – Thompson and Coble – went a combined 4-of-11 from the floor for eight points. They also turned over the ball seven times.

“We’ve got to look in the mirror and find out why it happened,” Moore said. “Everyone’s got to look at themselves.”

Neither Moore nor Mirkovic questioned the Cats’ heart. But coming on the heels of a three-game winning streak and heading into a marquee showdown against in-state rival Illinois on Thursday, the loss was hard to swallow.

“When you give everything you have, and at the end you don’t see a W, it’s really tough,” Mirkovic said.

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