Needing a win in the worst way, the Iowa men’s basketball team used a big first-half run to pull away from Northwestern on Sunday afternoon.
The 12-2 run over a span of seven and a half minutes allowed the Hawkeyes to gain an advantage and then things got better from there in a 70-50 win over the Wildcats.
The win ended a five-game losing streak to Northwestern and four-game drought at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Iowa (12-5, 1-3) also improved to 22-0 when holding its opponent under 60 points.
"That's as good as we can play defensively," said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. "This offense is extremely difficult to guard. I don't know I have ever been in a game where the team I was involved with guarded it any better. The key was sustainability and not getting them a lot of second chance opportunities."
The victory Sunday included another strong bench performance, a dominant effort in the paint and just nine turnovers. The Hawkeyes, who shot 46 percent from the field, scored 40 bench points and outscored the Wildcats 40-18 in the paint.
On the flip side, Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) hit just 29 percent from the floor and was just 5-of-26 from the 3-point range. Former West Des Moines Valley star Kale Abrahamson hit just one shot in the game – a 3-pointer in the first half – and finished with just three points.
The game was tied at 11 with 8:19 to play until halftime but the Hawkeyes grabbed a 25-13 lead with less than one minute to go. The advantage dropped to 10 at the break and Iowa led by as many as 27 points in the game.
After going up by 10 points in the second half, Northwestern got it back to within six and got the crowd fired up behind it. But the Hawkeyes recovered as Aaron White scored nine of the team’s next 13 points to push the advantage back to 13.
"We gave them two layups, that gets the crowd involved and their bench involved," said McCaffery. "The most important thing was we scored the next two baskets and got it back to a double-digit lead. That's what good teams do."
White led the Hawkeyes in scoring for the ninth time this season as he finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assist. He was 7-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 at the line.
The other two players who reached double figures came off the bench. Junior Melsahn Basabe finished in double-digits for the second straight game with 11 points and four boards, while sophomore Josh Oglesby broke out of a shooting slump with a season-high 14. He was 4-of-9 from 3-point range.
"It's only a matter of time, he's too good of a shooter," said McCaffery of Oglesby's performance. "I am so proud of him, he's working at it. I just keep encouraging him to shoot. When he's doing that, we're a pretty good team."
Roy Devyn Marble returned from an injured ankle to score eight points but he also delivered five assists. The Hawkeyes assisted on 22 of their 29 field goals in the victory.
Junior Zach McCabe came off the bench to score seven points and five rebounds and senior Eric May also scored seven. Freshman Adam Woodbury grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
The Hawkeyes out-rebounded the Wildcats 43-33. The game was tied four times and there were four lead changes.
Dave Sobolewski had 14 points and five rebounds and Tre Demps added 10 points and four boards.
The Hawkeyes had lost their first three Big Ten games before Sunday, but it was the first team they had faced that was outside the top 20 of the national rankings.
Iowa will have a little less than a week off before hosting Wisconsin on Saturday. The Hawkeyes then hit the road for two straight against Ohio State and Penn State.
Saturday’s game against Wisconsin begins at 7 p.m. The game will be played on the 20th anniversary of former Hawkeye Chris Street's death.
"We're going to remember one of the great Hawks of all-time, as we've done the last 20 years and will continue to do forever," said McCaffery. "There will be a lot of emotion in the building. We just have to focus on the game and bringing the Hawkeyes home a victory."