We knew going in that this game would be a horrid, slogging disaster, and for the first 25 minutes or so, that it was. Iowa got dragged into a dogfight with Northwestern, and it took more than a half for Roy Devyn Marble to even register his first point of the game, but here's the nice thing: Iowa is massively more talented than Northwestern. The Hawkeyes went on an 11-0 run in the middle of the second half, buyoed largely by Marble, to put the game away, 76-50.
If there's one thing Fran McCaffrey is going to wrath out about, it's the turnovers—Iowa gave the ball away 15 times to Northwestern's 10. That's a fine formula for keeping an inferior team in the game longer than it ought to be, and lo and behold. But the vast majority of those turnovers came in the first half, and when Iowa turned off the free possession spigot for the WIldcats—only five giveaways after the break, and most of those came in garbage time—the game fell into place nicely.
Another area where Iowa could control the pace of possessions was on the glass, and the Hawkeyes were absolutely dominant there on Saturday. The overall margin was gaudy—43 to 20—but breaking it down to the percentages, Iowa's performance there was, hey what do you know, still dominant: 44.4 OREB%, 86 DREB%. That's dominance on both sides of the glass, and it more than made up for the turnover struggles of the first half.
Nobody was particularly spectacular for the Hawkeyes, but high marks go to Gabriel Olaseni for leading the team in scoring (14 in a tie with Marble) and rebounding (10). No blocks, but he played with a great deal of energy and made life hell for the Wildcat offense. Olaseni's days as a prokect are over; dude is just a player now. And this was pretty cool:
God, Alex Olah is a pile of hot garbage, isn't he? Can we pay him to play against Iowa for every Hawkeye game from here on out, and just get dunked on over and over? He would be Iowa's MVP if he could be an all-time opponent.
The Hawkeyes' ability to practically eliminate turnovers after the break was a direct result of Mike Gesell's mastery of the offense. He was able to recognize and exploit mismatches off Northwestern's switches, and he could get to the rim at will without ever playing out of control. He probably won't get any serious All-Big Ten love this season, but without him Iowa would be a pure mess.
It merits mention: Iowa played an opponent who takes the transition game completely out of the equation, and the Hawkeyes still won big. Yeah, it's just Northwestern, but hey, any opportunity to demonstrate the ability to overwhelm an opponent in the half-court set, right?
This was probably Iowa's easiest game left of the season (yes, Northwestern was 3-4, but I'll be shocked if they get to 6-12), and now it's over without incident. There's no arguing with 16-4 (5-2) in the nation's best conference. But now it's time to go straight into the teeth of the schedule, with Michigan State, Ohio State and MIchigan coming to Carver-Hawkeye in the next four games (the lone road game, at Illinois, will not be easy either). If Iowa's for real a top-three Big Ten team, it's time to prove it.