Friday, February 27, 2009

Game 27: Iowa @ Northwestern

The Matchup: Iowa (14-14) @ Northwestern (15-11)

Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)

TV: Big Ten Network (1:00 PM CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Fun Fact: Bill Carmody is 5-2 at home against Iowa as Northwestern’s head coach. The two losses were by 5 points each and decided in the final minute.

About the Game
Postseason play is on the line when the Iowa Hawkeyes visit Welsh-Ryan on Saturday. With a win Northwestern will clinch an above. 500 record and likely assure themselves of a bid to some postseason tournament. With their 14-14 record Iowa probably needs 2 or 3 more wins to assure themselves a postseason bid, but after their 56-51 win in Iowa City the Hawks should feel confident against Northwestern.

In the game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa essentially beat Northwestern because they took great advantage of the two things they do extremely well—make three pointers and make free throws. Iowa also got a great lift from their inside players Jarryd Cole and Cyrus Tate who despite scoring only 4 points they helped lead the Hawkeyes to thirteen offensive rebounds which helped the Hawkeye shooters get a ton of extra shots. When you have guys like Matt Gatens, Jake Kelly, and Devan Bawinkle on the court it is a bad idea to give them three-shot possessions. Statistically Iowa is not a great rebounding team, averaging only 28.8 rebounds per game. In order to avoid the season sweep, Northwestern must hold them near that number.

Another key for Northwestern is to limit the total number of three pointers made by Iowa. This might be a game NU wants to skip the 1-3-1 like they did against Illinois. Using the 2-3 or switching man-to-man will allow NU to put more pressure on individual Hawkeyes and keep Devan Bawinkle from building his usual fort in the corner to wait for wide open threes. NU might also get some rebounding help if they play the 2-3. Luka Mirkovic commented he felt it was easier to find a guy to block out in the Illinois game when NU played the 2-3. Of course, the 1-3-1 did produce 17 Iowa turnovers in Iowa City. If NU had taken more advantage of those turnovers allowing so many Iowa treys wouldn’t have been a problem. Another key might be if Iowa guard Jeff Peterson returns from injury. Peterson made several big shots against NU in Iowa City. However, Peterson and his replacement Jake Kelly have had turnover problems at times this year. If Iowa only has one ball handler, like they will if Peterson can’t play, perhaps NU should play whatever defense will be best to apply pressure on the Hawkeye point guard. That might even be a full court press of some variety.

The Wildcats had the lead late against Iowa in Iowa City, but Devan Bawinkle hit a clutch three from his home in the corner to give the Hawks the lead and the win. If Northwestern reduces the number of threes they allow, commits less fouls, and keeps the rebounding battle close to even, they should win. That might seem like a tough task, but the last two times Northwestern has been near full strength (Ohio State and Indiana) they have done exactly those things. In addition, the emotion of senior day and the fact this is Northwestern’s most winnable game left should have NU ready to play. However, this game will be close as both teams play low possession games which make it difficult for a team to extend a lead. Northwestern, 61 Iowa, 56

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