The last time Northwestern and Iowa met at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the result was an embarrassing 20-point loss for NU.
But now the Wildcats travel to Iowa City playing a different type of ball game.
Less than a month after the initial meeting Jan. 13, the Wildcats (13-10, 4-6 Big Ten) face the Hawkeyes (14-9, 3-7 Big Ten) Saturday with something to show off – namely, their improved offensive game.
The Cats, who posted a 3-3 record since that mid-January contest, gave No. 2 Indiana a run for its money during the second half of the teams’ Jan. 20 meeting. Its biggest defeat since Iowa was a 28-point loss to No. 1 Michigan.
The game in Ann Arbor, however, was also the most fight the Cats’ offense had shown all season — a passion the team was able to replicate during its win against Purdue on Saturday.
In knocking off the Boilermakers, NU scored the most points it had since senior forward Drew Crawford announced his season-ending injury and managed to shoot 53.1 percent from the field, a far cry from its dismal 29.4 percent shooting average it had against Iowa the first time around.
The Cats are also running through their offense – their Achilles heel since Crawford took to the bench – more efficiently than they were three weeks ago.
Both sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski and coach Bill Carmody mentioned the importance of assists after the Purdue game. NU had 9 assists on 20 baskets against Iowa in January and 24 assists on 26 baskets against Purdue.
On the other end of the court, the disciplined Cats defense that rattled Minnesota and Illinois later in January should deal with Iowa’s offense, which runs, not unlike NU’s, through three primary players.
Again like the Cats, only two of the Hawkeyes three offensive leaders average more than 10 points per game. Forward Aaron White averages 13.8 points per game and guard Roy Devyn Marble averages 12.9.
And after notching its first win at Welsh-Ryan in 10 days, NU should be riding its confidence – which Sobolewski said was key in the win against Purdue – into Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes will look to end their two-game losing streak in their first time on their home court in nine days, especially after their 4-point loss in double overtime against Wisconsin.