Saturday, February 7, 2009

Iowa's Three Point Shooting Enough to Beat NU: Hawkeyes hit 12 threes in 56-51 win

In a game that featured a combined 28 turnovers and 36% shooting, the Iowa Hawkeyes prevailed primarily due to their ability to connect from the free throw line and grab offensive rebounds. Iowa shot 16-of-18 from the free throw line and grabbed thirteen offensive boards. They also connected on 12-of-30 threes, which was good enough for 40% and helped make up for 17 turnovers. Clutch threes by Jeff Peterson and Devan Bawinkle when NU took the lead or tied the game were the biggest of those of 12, but they all proved a key factor in beating Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone.

For Northwestern, Craig Moore scored 20 points, but the fact he shot 6-of-18 (all threes) almost makes his 20 points unimpressive. With Kevin Coble playing only 26 minutes, likely due to his poor rebounding efforts, Moore was at times NU’s only real threat on the court. That said, he did force some shots, though, one has to question whether Coach Carmody would have wanted Moore giving up the ball to Jeff Ryan or Davide Curletti to shoot. Ryan did have 4 assists and 4 points, but he only attempted 1 shot from the field. If Moore is left on the court with an ineffective Juice Thompson and a group of non-shooters, it is very tough for him to get a shot. At times, Iowa basically sent two defenders at him whenever he touched the ball. If such situations occur in the future, guys like Ryan need to look to shoot at least slightly more.

A good portion of the blame for this loss has to go to the underperformance of Kevin Coble and Thompson. Since his fantastic game at Michigan State, Coble’s three point shot has been off (or he hasn't looked for it). He has still be able to create his own shot, but when his three isn’t falling the defense can play off him and take away some of his ability to drive. This happened tonight. Iowa forced Coble to shoot the three and he missed all three attempts. Could NU have gotten Coble more looks off backdoors? Maybe, but since Iowa was sagging off Coble and whoever was at center, much of the time the lane was clogged.

Thompson, who I still think is this team’s key, scored 0 points tonight and turned the ball over 4 times while only dishing out three assists. He also only attempted three shots in 34 minutes. With Moore struggling and Coble on the bench, Thompson needed to be more aggressive. He also, obviously, needs to take better care of the ball in the clutch.

One bright spot for Northwestern was the play of freshman center Luka Mirkovic. When Kyle Rowley got off to a slow start, two point blank misses, Mirkovic came in and provided a life. He scored 9 points, twice with nice drives, and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. At times, the Belgrade native seemed the only Wildcat trying to grab a board. With two very athletic front courts in Illinois and Michigan coming to Welsh-Ryan next week, I expect Mirkovic to continue to get more minutes than his classmate Rowley. I would also not be surprised to see Ivan Peljusic return to the rotation.

With this loss NU is now 13-8. Some people said NU’s game with Illinois would be huge if NU won today. I actually think it is bigger now that NU lost. Thanks to today’s loss, if NU can’t beat the Illini they will have no chance of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. I hate to term any game which isn’t an elimination game a “must win” because the season will continue regardless of the result. However, given that the Illinois game is essentially an elimination game for the NCAAs-at least for NU-I think Thursday might be a “must win”.

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