Northwestern Holds Off Hawks in Evanston

Northwestern battled back from a second-half deficit to knock off Iowa, 55-49, in Evanston on Saturday. Jake Kelly matched a career-high with 23 points in the loss.

EVANSTON, Ill. - Craig Moore seemed to be sharing his jersey with Iowa defensive wiz Jake Kelly most of the game. It didn't seem to bother the Northwestern senior when it mattered most.

Moore stroked a deep three-pointer with Kelly in his face in the final minute to help seal a hard-fought 55-49 victory in his final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday. Kelly frustrated the Wildcats' sharpshooter for most of the afternoon, as he missed nine of his first 10 shots from the floor, all three pointer attempts.

When the Moore's shot went through the hoop, Kelly dropped his head to his chest.

"I stunted a little bit too late on (Kevin) Coble's drive and I wasn't able to get a hand up in time for (Moore)," Kelly said. "He's a great shooter and I should have know as a senior he was going to try to knock down some big shots on Senior Night."

"It's about time, right?" Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody said of Moore‘s big shot. "The guy is a good shooter. He's going to make them eventually. He was choked up before the game, and he played like he was choked up for about 35 minutes. Then he came on."

In addition to suffocating Moore for much of the game, Kelly kept his team in the game with another stellar night on offense. The sophomore matched his career-high with 23 points to go with five rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. He's played every minutes in Iowa's last three games and all but two minutes in the last four contests, during which he's scored 85 points.

"He's like a snake; serpentine, is that the word?"" Carmody said. "He just slides around guys. It doesn't look like he's moving that fast, but he's 6-5, 6-6. Then when he gets into the lane, it's hard to get up with him because he's crafty as can be. He's a really good player and he's at the top of his game right now."

Matt Gatens added 11 points and four rebounds for Iowa (14-15 overall, 4-12 Big Ten). Jarryd Cole's four points were the next most for the visitors.

Kelly's three-pointer gave Iowa a 39-32 lead with 11 minutes, 1 second to play in the game. It capped an 8-0 run for the visitors. That's where things fell apart for the Hawkeyes.

After a timeout, Iowa defended well for most of the next Wildcat possession. But the ball was fumbled around and landed in the hands of Michael Thompson. He knocked down a trey with about three seconds left on the shot clock.

That sent the Wildcats on a 15-4 run, aided by four three-pointers in a row, that put them up 47-43 with 6:20 on the clock. Iowa fought back to tie it at 47-47 a few minutes later as Kelly and Cole each hit a lay-up. The home team then clamped down on Kelly, holding him scoreless over the last 4:20 and limiting the Hawkeyes to a Gatens' lay-in the rest of the way.

"We just let them get comfortable," Kelly said. "They started feeling good about themselves and we weren't mixing up pressure. "

Meanwhile, Coble hit a jumper and then Moore dropped in his big triple over Kelly to grab a 52-47 lead with :54 remaining in the game. Iowa had a chance to make it a one-possession game at the :14 mark, but Cyrus Tate was called for an off-the-ball foul on a Gatens' drive where he appeared to get fouled.

Said Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter: "The thing about it, and hopefully our players understand, that if you make mistakes, and maybe not the ones that everybody notices; I'm not talking about throwing the ball out of bounds; I'm talking about defensive mistakes, jumping on shot fakes, helping off somebody that you shouldn't help off of, not getting matched up in transition; when that happens, you usually pay for it.

"We had a seven-point lead. Hats off to them. They knocked down threes. Great execution by them; poor poise on our part. To me, that was the ballgame right there. Then we couldn‘t execute down the stretch."

The Hawkeyes dropped their fifth Big Ten game by six or fewer points and now have lost seven games in league by eight or less points.

"I think it's toughness; it's being mentally tough," Kelly said. "You have to lock down on defense. You can't let their point guard (Thompson) get going. When we get a run like that, we tend to play not to lose instead of just getting it done and sealing it off."

"It's frustrating to know that we could have made our record so much better," Gatens said. "It's frustrating because we know we're so close and it's just another loss. It's too bad, but we know we're right there."

Iowa lost for the 11th time in a row on the road. It represented the most in a single season for the program since dropping the same amount in 1989-90. Its last road win came on Nov. 20 at the Citadel.

Jermain Davis returned to action for the Hawkeyes after missing two games with a sprained knee. Starting point guard Jeff Peterson sat out his fourth game in a row with a strained hamstring.

Iowa center Cyrus Tate played 27 minutes, the most since suffering a high ankle sprain on Jan. 8 against Minnesota. He finished with four points, five rebounds and two steals before fouling out in the final minute.

Northwestern avenged 56-51 loss in Iowa City on Feb. 7. The Wildcats (16-11, 7-9) downed Iowa here for the fourth time in the last five meetings and for the sixth time in the last eight games at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Northwestern held a 23-22 halftime lead. The Hawkeyes were fortunate to be that close having sustained a 7:26 scoring drought from the 16:26 mark down to 9:00. The visitors played the final 11 and half minutes of the first half with leading scorer Matt Gatens, who was tagged with two early fouls.

Iowa trailed by seven points with two minutes remaining before the intermission, but finished the half on a 6-0 run. Jake Kelly, who scored 12 points by the break, hit a pair of three-pointers.

Cole (17) Devan Bawinkle (20), and Aaron Fuller (13) combined for 50 first-half minutes without a point.

Iowa assured itself of the 10th seed in this month's Big Ten Tournament with Saturday's loss.

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