Men’s Basketball: Wildcats run out of gas, fall to Iowa at home


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Miller Kopp makes a move through two defenders. The Wildcats dropped their fifth Big Ten contest of the season to Iowa on Thursday night.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Playing its fourth game in 10 days, Northwestern masked its fatigue in a first half highlighted by 12 lead changes. By the second half, the Wildcats were running on fumes. And Iowa’s Luka Garza was ready to take off.

Three days after NU (6-10, 1-5 Big Ten) picked up its first conference win, Iowa (12-5, 3-3) halted the Cats’ momentum in a 75-62 rout at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Garza headlined the Hawkeyes’ effort, posting 27 points on an efficient 10-for-14 shooting performance and three other Iowa players reached double figures.

“We hit the wall a little bit physically and emotionally,” coach Chris Collins said. “In the second half, we were gassed. We were hanging around, but we could never find the energy and the fight that’s needed to beat a team like Iowa.”

Garza made his case as a potential Big Ten Player of the Year, scoring Iowa’s first 10 points and converting from both the perimeter and the post. NU held Garza scoreless for the rest of the opening half with stifling double-teams, but saw the Hawkeyes convert on eight of their 15 attempts from 3-point range and take a six-point advantage into halftime.

For the next nine minutes, the Cats stayed within striking range and cut the deficit to five points on a Jared Jones layup.

Then, Garza took over. Over the next four minutes, the junior center scored all 14 of Iowa’s points and stretched the lead to 14. NU couldn’t recover and suffered its 10th loss of the season.

“We have to do a good job of locking in and getting stops,” sophomore forward Miller Kopp said. “We let Luka get really deep touches, because when he gets it down there, it’s really hard to stop him. We lost some guys in transition and they had some open looks from the 3-point line. When it comes down to it, you need to get stops to win the game and stop their runs.”

NU owned the boards in the first half, pulling in 22 rebounds and leading the Hawkeyes 11-0 on the offensive glass. Kopp, who finished as the Cats’ leading scorer for the game, tallied 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in the first 20 minutes.

The toll of the Cats’ grueling slate showed in the second half as the Cats’ couldn’t keep up with their opponents. Though freshman forward Robbie Beran kept the NU offense afloat with nine points in the final frame, Kopp missed all six of his field goal attempts, and the rebounding trend flipped in Iowa’s favor.

“Our energy in the second half was not near what it was in the first,” Collins said. “You see it in every place — offensive rebounds, loose balls. Our guys have got to get in the ice tubs, they have to get away from the game and we’ll get back to the drawing board.”

The Cats will now have a chance to take a breather over the four days before suiting up for their road trip to instate rival No. 24 Illinois on Saturday.

“This stretch was really tough,” Kopp said. “No. 1, that’s no excuse and no one’s going to feel sorry for us on the court. But to have some rest is going to be important, myself included, and just to be able to decompress physically and mentally is going to be big for us.”

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