After-thoughts from Iowa’s 80-79 victory over Northwestern:
--There were a handful of moments in Sunday’s game when you just got the feeling that it wasn’t going to be Iowa’s day. With just under six minutes to go in the first half, the shot clock was about to run out on Northwestern so Vic Law threw up a stepback 25-foot jumper that banked in. There were several other moments like that where things just didn’t bounce the Hawkeyes’ way, which led to them trailing by 15 with 4 ½ minutes to go. Then, in that last 4:30, everything seemed to go their way and they pulled out the victory.
--You couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry Sunday for Northwestern coach Chris Collins, who is one of the nice guys of the Big Ten. His team played 35 of its best minutes of the season, especially at the offensive end, and was on the verge of what would have been its biggest victory of the season. It shot much, much better than it has in any game this season and reached a season high for points in a Big Ten game. Then it all fell apart in a hurry. It’s not as though Collins has a young, inexperienced team. He has three seniors in the starting lineup (two of them fifth-year players) plus three juniors in his rotation. These guys have been around. But they definitely crumbled under the pressure at the end.
--The biggest part of Northwestern’s early charge was Law, a 6-foot-7 senior who always has been a little overrated (in our opinion) and who had been in a horrific shooting slump. In the previous five games, he had shot 18.5 percent from the field, going 3 for 17, 2 for 8, 2 for 11, 1 for 8 and 2 for 10. He made just five 3-pointers in those games. Then he went 9 for 14 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range Sunday. But most of it was early. He scored just five of his 24 points in the second half.
--When the Hawkeyes get all of their big offensive weapons clicking together at the same time, they’re an extremely dangerous team. But it doesn’t seem to happen very often. Every game there are one or two guys who just don’t seem to show up. Sometimes it’s been Jordan Bohannon. Isaiah Moss had gone scoreless in each of the past two games. Luka Garza had only four early points Thursday at Indiana. On Sunday, Bohannon didn’t score in the first 34 minutes and Garza didn’t score at all for the first time since the fourth game of his college career. A big part of Garza’s recent problem has been foul trouble. He fouled out at Indiana and committed four fouls Sunday, playing fewer than 17 minutes.
--One very encouraging sign for the Hawkeyes was that Moss came out much more aggressively looking for his shot. He took 12 shots, one less than Tyler Cook, and scored 16 points. Included was a short jumper with 14 seconds left that chopped what was once a 15-point Northwestern lead to 78-77.
--Another encouraging sign: Connor McCaffery made a 3-point field goal. The son of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery had made only one shot from behind the arc this season and that was on Nov. 15 against Oregon. He has been hesitant to even launch many shots from out there, attempting only 12 in the first 23 games. He attempted two Sunday. The first one was an airball but the second one swished through in the middle of the first half.
--Northwestern inserted 6-10, 240-pound Barret Benson into the starting lineup in an effort to counteract Iowa’s potent inside duo of Cook and Garza. Since Garza had a fairly awful night and Cook made just 5 of his 13 shots, it worked to a degree. But Cook also drew 12 fouls, four of them on Benson. With four minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats’ A.J. Turner just reached out and hugged Cook to keep him from scoring and was called for a flagrant 1 foul.
--Although Northwestern’s shooting display indicates otherwise, Iowa’s defense wasn’t completely terrible in this game. It definitely has played better but this was nowhere near as bad as the first half against Minnesota or the second half against Michigan State.
--A statistical oddity you seldom see these days in college basketball: Neither team blocked a shot in this game.