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The Daily Northwestern

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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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Men’s Basketball: Second-half Iowa explosion dooms Northwestern in 87-80 defeat

Carlotta Angiolillo/The Daily Northwestern
Graduate student guard Boo Buie attempts to tie up possession. In NU’s 87-80 loss to Iowa on Saturday, the Hawkeyes 51 second half points proved too costly.

When coach Chris Collins spoke to the media ahead of Northwestern’s penultimate home clash versus Iowa, he stressed the defense’s necessity to counter an exceptionally fast paced offense. 

Averaging more than 80 points per game, the Hawkeyes (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten) presented a significant defensive hurdle for Collins and co.

Flash forward a day later, the Wildcats (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten) faced difficulties mitigating their conference foe’s pace and eventually dropped their first Big Ten home loss. 

NU was fresh off a defensive clinic in their victory at Maryland Wednesday, restricting the Terrapins to shoot at a 2-of-22 clip from deep and tally 61 points. 

During Saturday’s first half, the ‘Cats offensive blows with Iowa were led by graduate student guard Boo Buie. After his 11 first half points on a perfect 3-of-3 mark from deep, NU countered the Hawkeyes six first half treys and held a one-point lead entering the intermission. 

But, the ‘Cats couldn’t counter the visitors’ ability to move the ball down the court at a fast pace in the second half. Hawkeye guard Josh Dix’s 3-pointer opened scoring in the second frame and started an Iowa scoring barrage for which NU lacked answers. 

Dix led the way for the visitors on Saturday, tallying a team-high 24 points and shooting at an unconscious 9-of-13 clip from the field. 

“We’re going to have to iron it out (defensively),” Collins said. “When you have more firepower and potency offensively, you can get away with some mistakes. Not now.” 

Already undermanned and missing two of its opening-day starters in senior guard Ty Berry and graduate student guard Ryan Langborg, the ‘Cats couldn’t afford to continue trading baskets. 

A removal of the two guards’ combined average of nearly 25 points, coupled with an inexperienced rotation, NU lacked the offensive firepower and stamina to keep pace with Iowa for the entire 40 minutes of play. 

“In the second half, I thought we were pretty fatigued,” Collins said. “We had three or four (defensive) breakdowns at inopportune times. Our margin for error right now is slimmer. To give up 51 points in the second half is not going to be a great recipe for us going forward.” 

Capitalizing on an undermanned ‘Cats rotation, the Hawkeyes stayed true to their fast-paced offensive approach. Iowa tallied 25 fast-break points. 

While junior guard Brooks Barnhizer’s trey trimmed a once 11-point deficit to two with less than six minutes remaining, the visitors’ emphasis on attacking the rim proved the difference maker Saturday. While Iowa recorded 51 second half points off shooting 19-of-30 from the field, the Hawkeyes only canned four threes during the frame. 

“(Iowa) is one of the top offenses we’ve seen this year,” Barnhizer said.“ We can’t play 30 minutes of solid transition defense because for those other 10 minutes, they’ll kick your tail. It’s the small things like that, that win games.” 

Converting multiple driving layups, Iowa showcased its ability to move down the court at a fast pace and made matters difficult for NU to set the defensive rotations it had reaped the rewards of just three days earlier in College Park. 

Hawkeye forwards Owen Freeman and Payton Sandfort helped the visitors seal the game late. 

Freeman’s pair of layups and Sandfort’s driving layup extended Iowa’s lead to seven with less than three minutes remaining, making a late push from the ‘Cats all for naught. 

“That’s how (Iowa) plays,” Collins said. “They’re a fast paced team (and) their motion offense is hard to guard. There were stretches of the game where we got a little fatigued by it. They have skilled guys that can all shoot, handle, pass and have a pretty good size.” 

With the ‘Cats holding a one-game lead for a double bye seeding in the Big Ten Tournament with two games to play, Collins said there’s no excuses coming from his group. 

“We’re not into the moral victory business,” Collins said. “We have to dig down (deep) and find a way and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re in the last week of the regular season. We’ve got to rest, recover and get ourselves ready for another Big Ten battle on Wednesday night.” 

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Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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