Wildcats Hold Off Hawkeyes

Northwestern was able to hold off Iowa's late-game comeback, earning it a 70-66 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Wildcats jump into the seventh seed of the Big Ten Tournament, and their hopes to reach the Big Dance are still alive.

A gut-wrenching feeling struck each Northwestern player as Iowa guard Josh Oglesby fired up a potential go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds. It brought back a nightmarish déjà vu.

Both Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb held their breath as the shot appeared destined for the rim. The Wildcats postseason aspirations were in the air with the shot.

Maybe it was fate, maybe it was luck, but it missed.

Northwestern has seen its fair share of late-game heartbreak this season. It was a different story in Iowa City. The Wildcats saved their NCAA Tournament hopes by edging Iowa, 70-66.

"It was definitely a very important game for us," said Drew Crawford, who posted a game-high 18 points. "Especially after a tough loss, we really wanted to be resiliant and come out ready to play today. We were hungry and got the win."

NU's failures from its loss to Ohio State were fixed against the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats totaled 14 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points. Their defense was vastly improved, too, forcing 18 turnovers, leading to 23 points.

The Wildcats benefited from key bounce which went their way. In the final seconds, David Sobolewski hit two key free throws which rolled off the rim and in. The biggest break was on Ogelsby's potential game-winner, which banked off the iron.

"I thought it was good, it looked good," said sophomore guard JerShon Cobb. "I just didn't want it to go in."

Were the lucky bounces and breaks due to luck? The Wildcats don't believe that.

"When you tend to have energy, when you're playing hard, and give it all your effort, that tends to happen," Crawford said. "You get balls to bounce your way and things go well for you."

Early in the contest, Northwestern's chances appeared bleak. Iowa jumped to a commanding 15-point lead in the first half, and the Wildcats had connected on 3-of-16 field goals. NU would then roll on a 27-5 run, turning the game in its favor.

"When a team is making a run at you, you need stops and you can't have turnovers," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said to the media. "We had both."

Northwestern never trailed in the second half. The closest Iowa would come to NU's lead was two points, but Oglesby's three-pointer fell short. Alex Marcotullio closed out the win with two free throws as two ticks remained on the clock.

The win elevated Northwestern over Iowa for the seven seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which starts Thursday. The Wildcats draw Minnesota in the first round, while the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes will battle Illinois.

A win for Northwestern in the first round of the conference tournament could be enough to solidify a seed in the Big Dance. The Wildcats have their sights set on higher goals.

"It's not just about winning games or just trying to get (enough wins to qualify for) the NCAA Tournament," Cobb said of the Big Ten Tournament. "We think we're a good enough team to win it."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college football, college basketball and college baseball for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2009. He served as a writer for Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics, and is now the Publisher of PurpleWildcats.com, covering the Northwestern Wildcats.
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