In their final Big Ten home game of the season, Northwestern cruised past Iowa behind 29 points from John Shurna and strong first half defense. The win was the 'Cats 18th of the season, setting a school record.
Shurna was certainly the story of the game, as he nearly outscored Iowa by himself in the first half. He was able to score in a variety of ways: backdoor cuts, threes, mid-range jumpers, and a couple of baskets in the post. The highlight of the night for him was a bizarre 3-point play, as he got fouled on an alley-oop attempt but the ball bounced high off the rim and in. Jeremy Nash added 15 points, Luka Mirkovic had 12 points and 6 rebounds, and Michael Thompson had 12 points to go along with 6 assists. For the game, Northwestern was very efficient on offense, shooting 58% from the field and only turning it over 8 times.
On the defensive end, Bill Carmody went exclusively with the match-up zone, and it worked well in the first half. The Hawkeyes came out flat after an 8 day lay-off, turning the ball over 9 times in the first half and scoring just 19 points. In the second half however, Northwestern didn't have the same defensive intensity, and Iowa was able to cut what was a 25 point deficit at the 10 minute mark down to 12 with about 4 minutes left. While the Hawkeyes never really threatened to make it a game, they managed to get close enough to keep NU from emptying the bench until the final minute. Still, Carmody went to his bench a bit more than usual, giving double digit minutes to Davide Curletti, Mike Capocci, and Alex Marcotullio. Curletti, who seems to have taken the back-up center job from Kyle Rowley, did a nice job on the glass with 5 rebounds, but committed 4 fouls in 11 minutes and looked lost trying to score inside. Capocci as usual brought nothing to the table offensively, but made a couple of good defensive plays. Marcotullio had a very quiet 13 minutes, you could barely notice he was on the floor.
While most of the starting five played well, Drew Crawford had his third straight disappointing game and seems to have finally hit the freshman wall. He had just 2 points and no rebounds in 25 minutes, and was visibly frustrated with his lack of touches. For Northwestern to make a run in the Big Ten tournament, he's going to need to return to form.
I was disappointed with the defense in the second half, but other than that there's not much to complain about. The offense continues to be effective, and I suppose 20 good minutes of defense is a big upgrade over the last few games. Next up is a trip to Penn State, which won't be easy despite the Nittany Lions' poor record. Hopefully Northwestern comes to play on Sunday.