Northwestern stunned Iowa 67-62 Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Tre Demps scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Drew Crawford added 15 and Dave Sobolewski had an improbable 10 points and six rebounds—with all of his points coming in the second half.
After an excellent game—one of their best of the season—NU will face Michigan State in the tournament quarterfinals. If Thursday is any indication, this team won't go down quietly.
Against an inept Iowa defense, the Wildcats shot 54 percent, including a 48 percent clip from behind the arc. Demps bled the shot clock and created shots for himself, creating the perfect tempo to give NU a chance.
And while Roy Marble knocked down 25 points for the Hawkeyes, NU held the other four Iowa starters to 2-of-15 combined shooting and seven points. Reserve Jarrod Uthoff, who had 17 and nine rebounds, was the other significant contributor
The Wildcats challenged Iowa to beat them from the perimeter, and as with many recent games, the Hawkeyes failed. Losing six of seven, they slipped down the NCAA Tournament seeding, likely to end with a double-digit seed.
Iowa hit six of 24 from three, with point guard Mike Gesell badly outplayed by Sobolewski. As Sobolewski played a steady game, Gesell forced shots and finished a miserable 0-for-10.
But the overarching story is that everyone contributed, and improved, for Northwestern: Sanjay Lumpkin hit early shots, Kale Abrahamson showed confidence on offense and Alex Olah stood tall on the interior. A team with nothing to lose is beginning to earn its stripes.
Much of this comes back to Chris Collins, who continues his strong opening act with his seventh conference win. He was often seen encouraging NU to slow the pace, with them finally dictating tempo. It feels irrelevant now, but Northwestern lost both matchups this regular season by 26 points.
This one came without Jershon Cobb, its second-best player, and it doesn't make much sense. This took the full, 40-minute effort with surprise contributions.
NU stayed tight throughout the first half, which ended in Tre Demps hitting a high-arcing triple to make it 31-all. They left the locker room more confident than ever, pulling ahead with a 10-3 run.
By the 9:13 mark, with momentum building for the Hawkeyes, Gabriel Olaseni hit two free throws to tie the game at 45. Of all the players, it was Dave Sobolewski who held NU together.
Sobo hit a floater with 6:39 to go, knocked in a three pointer and assisted on a Drew Crawford layup. He then hit the decisive shot: a deep three with 2:22 remaining that put Northwestern up 60-53.
After some bad, late fouls, NU managed to hang on for the win.
The team anticipates some good news off the court, and in the long run, it's more important. Northwestern brings in five top recruits—and perhaps a transfer—next year to build tournament hopes in Evanston.
For now, he'll take his David. Northwestern 67, Iowa 62. On to tomorrow.