Iowa City, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 20th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes take aim at their 19th straight home victory when they welcome the Northwestern Wildcats to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a Big Ten Conference clash on Thursday night.
Northwestern is hoping to put the brakes on a three-game slide, which includes setbacks in each of its first two conference games. The Wildcats were hammered by both Wisconsin (76-49) and Michigan (74-51), marking two of their lowest- scoring efforts of the season. NU is just 1-3 in true road tilts, and this is the first of three straight the team will play against teams currently ranked in the AP Top-25.
Iowa is an impressive 12-3 this season, but the team has split its first two league offerings -- beating Nebraska in the opener (67-57) before falling at Wisconsin this past Sunday (75-71). As a result of his actions in disputing the work turned in by the officials the last time out, head coach Fran McCaffery will serve a one-game suspension tonight. In addition to winning 18 consecutive home games, the Hawkeyes have also claimed victory in 27 straight against visiting foes who happen to be unranked at the time.
Iowa has nearly doubled up Northwestern in the all-time series, laying claim to a 111-57 advantage. Last season, the Hawkeyes beat the Wildcats three times, the first of which snapped a five-game series losing streak.
Drew Crawford scored 17 points and Alex Olah tacked on a dozen more, but those efforts weren't nearly enough as Northwestern suffered its second straight embarrassing loss, falling to the Michigan Wolverines by 23 points. The Wildcats shot just 38.8 percent from the field, missing the mark on 17 of their 23 3-point attempts in the process, while securing only 21 rebounds. At the other end, the Wolverines made good on 52.1 percent of their total shots, logged an 18-7 edge in points from the foul line, grabbed 33 boards and committed only nine turnovers.
Crawford (16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) continues to pace the 'Cats in both scoring and rebounding, while help comes from JerShon Cobb (11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Tre Demps (10.1 ppg) and Olah (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Olah is coming off a pretty good week, as he averaged 17.5 points while knocking down 73.7 percent of his field goal attempts against Wisconsin and Michigan. NU is averaging nearly the same number of points as it allows (64.5 to 64.8 ppg), and while it doesn't shoot the ball all that well, it limits open looks for the opposition as well. The team is in the red in both rebounding (-1.4) and turnovers (-0.9), but only marginally.
Roy Devyn Marble certainly did his best to give the Hawkeyes a fighting chance in their recent clash with Wisconsin, as the 6-foot-6 senior scored 27 points, but it wasn't enough as the Hawkeyes fell for the first time in conference play. Aaron White finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, getting help on the glass from Melsahn Basabe who collected nine caroms. Mike Gesell dished out seven of the team's 10 assists, but the Badgers nailed 10 3-pointers despite shooting only 37.7 percent from the floor. UW scored 25 points at the foul line, compared to 17 for Iowa.
Marble is averaging 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, but is just a 40.6 percent shooter who also happens to convert only 64.9 percent of his free throws. White (13.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 apg) and Jarrod Uthoff (10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) are the only other double-digit scorers on the team, which is putting up a robust 86.1 ppg (11th-best in the country). The Hawkeyes easily win the rebounding battle on most nights, logging a +9.7 differential, and they are +2.4 in turnover margin as well.