Five is Not Enough: Hawkeyes Lose to Northwestern

If Steve Alford doesn't believe in black cats, walking under ladders, stepping on cracks or breaking mirrors as bad luck, he might begin to wonder. Because if it were not for bad luck, Alford would not have any. The Hawkeyes fell to Northwestern 51-49 on Wednesday night on an 18-foot basket with 0.7 seconds to play. The league's 5th leading scorer, Pierre Pierce, missed the second half after being poked in the eye in the first half.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you just shouldn't leave the house on some days?

You wake up and stub your toe on the way to brush your teeth. Then on the way to the kitchen, you hit your head on a cupboard that you had left open the night before.

You slam you tie in your car door on the way to work.

Some days are better than others.

Iowa head basketball coach Steve Alford has to wonder if there is something in his past that he is paying for after losing yet another player to injury on Wednesday night and after watching his Hawkeyes lose to Northwestern 51-49 on an 18-foot basket with 0.7 seconds remaining.

If it weren't for bad luck, Alford and his Hawkeyes would not have any.

The game was tied 25-25 at the break, and it was then that Iowa learned it would be without the services of Pierre Pierce, the league's 5th leading scorer, for the entire second half due to his being poked in the eye in the opening stanza.

Iowa started the game with just six scholarship players in it's rotation. Losing Pierce meant more minutes for the starters plus Erek Hansen and walk on Kurt Spurgeon.

The Hawkeyes would own a six-point lead through the midway mark of the second half, but the Wildcats would storm back on three, three-point baskets by TJ Parker to take a five point lead late in the game.

But the Hawkeyes answered back, first with a three-point shot by senior Brody Boyd, his first bucket of the night, and two free throws by senior Glen Worley.

Northwestern would lead by two points with under 15 seconds to go when they fouled Jeff Horner. The sophomore calmly made them both, tying the contest at 40-all.

But a jumper by Vedran Vukusic denied Alford his first ever winning record in Big Ten play, at least for another three days.

With the win, the Wildcats pulled even with the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten standings at 8-7. Iowa fell to 15-11 overall, their NCAA tournament hopes now dependent on winning the Big Ten Conference tournament later in the month.

Jeff Horner played all 40 minute for Iowa and scored just seven points on 2 of 8 shooting. Greg Brunner led the Hawkeyes with 19 point and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes. Boyd also played 39 minutes, scoring just five points on 1 of 7 shooting.

Worley had six points, five turnovers and four rebounds in 35 minutes.

Erek Hansen continued his solid play, scoring six points, collecting seven rebounds and blocking four shots in 20 minutes of action.

It was not immediately known if Pierce's eye injury would keep him out of Saturday's home season finale against Purdue at West Lafayette.

Purdue lost to Illinois in overtime on Wednesday, dropping them to 7-8 in league play.

Iowa can finish no worse than a tie for 5th place in the Big Ten this year, which will be Alford's best finish.

They could still finish alone in fourth place with a win at Purdue and a Northwestern home loss against Michigan.

Should Iowa tie with Northwestern for fourth place, the Wildcats would earn the #4 seed and Iowa would be #5. Not that it would make a difference, as the four and five seeds play one another in the first round.

Historical Perspective: Before Steve Alford took over as Iowa's head coach, the Hawkeyes had lost just three games to the Wildcasts since 1978. Since then, Iowa has dropped four games against Northwestern. Alford is 6-4 against NW in Big Ten regular season play. The last time that Iowa had lost to Northwestern twice in the same season was 1959.

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