Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

53° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Rapid Recap: Iowa 87, Northwestern 80

Sophomore+forward+Luke+Hunger+battles+inside+against+Iowa+Saturday.
Carlotta Angiolillo/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore forward Luke Hunger battles inside against Iowa Saturday.

Three days after reaping an unlikely College Park campaign’s spoils, Northwestern looked to prevail in its penultimate home battle against Iowa Saturday night.

Fresh off a nine-point victory over Penn State Tuesday, the high-flying Hawkeyes (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten) sought their first win in Evanston since January 2021. In a back-and-forth affair, the gothic-garbed Wildcats (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten) fought to the final buzzer, but the undermanned hosts fell just short of an unlikely win.

Graduate student guard Boo Buie took less than 30 seconds to bludgeon the Iowa defense from downtown, and he fed sophomore guard Blake Smith for a triple on NU’s next possession. Following an early barrage from the hosts, the Hawkeyes hit back and gained their first lead five minutes into the half.

Behind Iowa forward Payton Sandfort’s eight early points, the Hawkeyes built a 20-14 lead at the under-12 media timeout, but Buie canned consecutive triples to erase the deficit. During a four-plus-minute Iowa scoring drought, the ‘Cats cruised to a 31-24 advantage.

However, Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery’s squad swiftly found its form, launching an 8-0 run to reclaim a one-point edge with four minutes and two seconds remaining in the first frame. Once the dust settled on a first half packed with six lead changes, NU carried a 37-36 upper hand into the locker room.

As senior center Matthew Nicholson limped off the floor with an apparent right foot injury, Iowa raced out to a 48-41 advantage in the second half’s opening four and a half minutes. The Hawkeyes maintained their momentum, stretching their lead to 59-48 with less than 12 minutes to play.

Although the game appeared to be slipping away for the ‘Cats, junior guard Brooks Barnhizer’s two-way presence and Buie’s fourth and fifth 3-pointers of the night brought the game back within three points in the final eight minutes.

With Iowa nabbing a 73-65 lead, Collins called a last-ditch timeout in an attempt to maneuver his team back into contention with 4:29 remaining. But, it was too little, too late as the Hawkeyes held on to clinch a pivotal road victory.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s loss to Iowa.

1. McKinney’s jersey enters the rafters

No player will ever don No. 30 in purple and white again, as Billy McKinney became the first athlete in school history to have his jersey number retired Saturday.  Collins said the honor was a longtime coming for McKinney at Friday’s media availability.

“It’s something I’ve been looking for since I started coaching here,” Collins said. “I’m a big believer in paying tribute to the history of a program … There’s no better person to be a better representative for the first jersey retirement than Billy.”

Before a sellout crowd, McKinney received a raucous standing ovation and embraced ‘Cats players and coaches as his name and number went into the Welsh-Ryan Arena rafters during a halftime ceremony.

Considered by many to be the greatest player in NU history, McKinney held the program’s all-time scoring record for 35 seasons until John Shurna surpassed him in 2012. McKinney poured in 1,900 points during his four seasons in Evanston, headlining coach Tex Winter’s lineup from 1974 to 1977.

2. Langborg once again ruled out; Smith stars in his stead

Graduate student guard Ryan Langborg missed his second consecutive contest Saturday due to an ankle sprain he suffered during the team’s victory against Michigan Feb. 22. Collins said Langborg made recovery progress during the week on Friday, but the ‘Cats once again went to battle without two of their typical starters.

Collins gave Smith the nod for his second consecutive start, adding defensive length to his lineup but sacrificing significant scoring fuel. NU also leaned on freshman guard Jordan Clayton, who logged extended minutes off the bench.

Smith made a quick imprint on the contest, canning a 3-pointer and acrobatic layup to push his first half point tally to five. Clayton’s first frame was far less productive, as the freshman didn’t record a stat — aside from a turnover and missed shot — in nine minutes. 

3. The ‘Cats drop first conference home game

Once Nicholson left the court and went to the locker room, NU’s chances of obtaining a positive result took a significant hit. An already undermanned lineup now lacked an imposing, established big man.

For the first time in nearly a calendar year, the ‘Cats dropped a conference game inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

NU will look to regroup in East Lansing, Michigan, where Collins’ group will face Michigan State Wednesday. For Buie, there’s nothing quite like a get-back game against a green and white foe he’s tormented for five years.

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