Wednesday, Jan 12th, 7:30 CT
All-time series record: Iowa leads the series 108-53
Northwestern picked up a big win on Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak. The Wildcats put up a season-high 93 points, en-route to a 12-point win over a struggling Indiana team. Now, the ‘Cats travel to Iowa City, to take on another struggling team, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa enters the game with a 7-8 record, and an 0-3 record in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have lost their three conference games by an average of 12.6 points.
The matchup with the Hawkeyes should favor Northwestern, who seems to have regained their mojo. Forward John Shurna found his form after three rough games. Shurna posted 24 points against the Hoosiers, and appeared to be back in good health, after his ankle injury prevented him from his usual numbers.
This game should be a chance for the Wildcats to earn a conference win, and continue a run to the tournament, but the Hawkeyes will look to play spoiler. This has the potential to be a trap game.
In 2010, Northwestern and Iowa split the series. Iowa took a 13-point win last season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, while Northwestern took the matchup in Welsh-Ryan Arena, with a 17-point win.
QUOTES FROM IOWA:
First year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery on Northwestern's ‘Princeton style' offense: "If you don't play with a great level of concentration, they'll carve you up. I've gone against that stuff since 1979, and I think Billy (Carmody) does it as well as anybody. I like his team -- he has good players -- he has players that understand it. They run it and they execute as well as anybody on our schedule, so we have to be ready for that one."
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR THE WILDCATS: Luka Mirkovic
Coming off a game to remember, look for Luka Mirkovic to have another big night. The key to Mirkovic's success against the Hoosiers was the lack of a matchup against Mirkovic's 6'11 frame. Indiana's tallest player stood at 6'9.
Iowa has the same problem, as their tallest starter is 6'7. If Iowa can't match the Wildcat center, look for Mirkovic to have another big game. When Mirkovic has a big game, the Wildcat offense rolls.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR THE HOOSIERS: Matt Gatens
Iowa's offense has struggled recently, but junior guard Matt Gatens has begun to find his stroke. The 6'5 Iowa City native is averaging 17.3 points per game in the past six games, and averages 12.7 PPG on the season.
The Wildcats will need to slow down the hot-shooting Gatens, and force some problems for the Iowa offense.
KEY MATCHUP: Luka Mirkovic vs. EVERYONE
Northwestern's game against Indiana showed what the ‘Cats can do when Luka Mirkovic is at his best. The ‘Princeton style' offense works at its best when the center is playing his best basketball. Iowa has to contain Mirkovic, and they don't have the height to matchup with him.
First year head coach Fran McCaffery will have to devise a plan to contain the Wildcat center, and try to slow down an offense that feasts off of matchups like this. If the Hawkeyes can't figure out a proper plan to stop the offense, there will be major problems.
KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN:
The Wildcats need a similar performance to their output on Sunday. The offense was clicking in all aspects. Shurna, Mirkovic, and Juice Thompson played a great game, and the supporting cast gave a great contribution.
Northwestern needs another great all-around offensive effort, which will separate the ‘Cats from the anemic offense of the Hawkeyes.