Men’s Basketball: Northwestern unable to end regular season on high note, falls at Iowa

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern wasn’t able to cap its season with a victory and end the year with a winning record.

In their final regular season game, the Wildcats (15-16, 6-12 Big Ten) lost to Iowa (21-10, 12-6) 69-52 in the teams’ second meeting of the season.

NU defeated the Hawkeyes on Feb. 15 to jumpstart a four-game winning streak and revive its season.

“Give Iowa credit, they played very hard, very determined,” coach Chris Collins said after the game on WGN Radio. “I thought their older players set the tone. … And Iowa made us pay when we made mistakes.”

The size and athleticism of the Hawkeyes was simply too much for the Cats to handle. Iowa forward Aaron White led the way in his final home contest, scoring a game-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with eight rebounds.

His partner in crime was forward Jarrod Uthoff, who stung NU for 25 points and a game-tying shot at the end of regulation in their last contest and followed up with 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks in this game.

Completing the trio was center Adam Woodbury, who dropped in 13 points and grabbed all five of his rebounds from the offensive glass.

The 2-3 zone the Cats debuted in the first matchup with the Hawkeyes betrayed them Saturday, with Iowa grabbing 15 more rebounds overall and 14 offensive boards to just one for NU.

“I didn’t think our activity was great,” Collins said on WGN. “Whatever defense you’re in, if you don’t play it with activity or determination or fight, it’s probably not going to work at this level.”

That rebounding margin led to the Hawkeyes attempting 18 more shots than the Cats over the course of the game, which exacerbated NU’s inability to get anything going offensively.

Junior guard Tre Demps was a bright spot for NU, continuing his late-season surge with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and two assists. Junior center Alex Olah stuffed the stat sheet with 10 rebounds and three blocks, but had just seven points. Demps was the only NU player to score more than eight points.

“I don’t know if (Olah) was just a little bit tired,” Collins said on WGN. “They have two big bodies … and that makes the difference, they can wear him down.”

The loss likely cements NU as the 11th seed for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Cats can move up to 10th if Minnesota falls to Penn State, and can also slide down to 12th if Nebraska defeats Maryland, but the Golden Gophers and Terrapins are both favored.

Assuming they remain the 11th seed, the Cats will face off against the 14th seed, either Penn State or Rutgers, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the United Center in Chicago.

The Cats would need to win the Big Ten Tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and are almost certainly eliminated from earning a bid to the second-tier National Invitational Tournament, but could still receive a berth in the College Basketball Invitational with a decent showing in Big Ten postseason play.

Twitter: @BobbyPillote