Preview: Men’s Basketball vs. Iowa
By Kendall Wright
After pulling off two huge upsets last week against then-No. 1 Purdue and No. 14 Indiana, Northwestern men’s basketball looks to extend its four-game winning streak in a matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday.
Iowa (17-9, 9-6 B1G) enters after its one-sided victory over Ohio State last Thursday. The Hawkeyes hope that a win against the Wildcats can help them make a late season push as the Big Ten conference tournament approaches in a few weeks.
As they have done all season, the Wildcats must rely on their top-rated defense against Iowa. Northwestern is averaging eight steals per game and ranks third in the Big Ten in points allowed (61.9). The Wildcats’ goal should be to position themselves into each opponent’s passing lane so that they can rack up those steals and get out in transition.
Northwestern must neutralize Iowa’s Kris Murray, who is having a sensational season. The star forward is averaging 21 points per game while shooting 50.3% from the field. Murray also leads the team in rebounding with 8.5 rebounds per game.The ‘Cats should double Murray whenever he has possession of the ball.
A big concern for Northwestern is its efficiency to shoot the ball consistently from three-point range. The Hawkeyes’ 35% bests the Wildcats 31.2%, so making sure the ‘Cats force them within the arc is critical. Over the last five games, the Wildcats have shot an average of 25.3% from three-point range, less than their season-average of 31.2%.
As Boo Buie keeps delivering his magical floaters and Chase Audige anchors the defense by averaging 2.4 steals per game, Northwestern’s dynamic duo must bring its best if they want to extend their winning streak and split the season series against the Hawkeyes. A sense of urgency needs to be evident right from the jump to show that the ‘Cats mean business and aren’t messing around.
With only five games remaining in the regular season, another conference win would give the ‘Cats 20 on the season. Although Northwestern currently sits at second in Big Ten standings and a March Madness ticket is likely solidified, quality wins down the stretch will only help the ‘Cats improve their tournament position.
Bradley Locker and Patrick Winograd have the call with tipoff set for 5:30 p.m. CST. Head on over to Welsh-Ryan Arena and join the Wildcats as they take on a familiar foe as teams gear up for the conference tournament.