Tyler Cook sitting on the bench for the Iowa on the road at Northwestern could have been the kiss of death for the Hawkeyes. Instead, Joe Wieskamp came alive in the second half, and together with Luka Garza, took over the game. Together, they turned a seven-point deficit with 17 minutes remaining in the game into a 73-63 road win at the newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Wieskamp finished the game as Iowa’s leading scorer with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Garza added 16 points and 5 rebounds coming off the bench for the second straight game. It was also another admirable performance from Isaiah Moss, who tallied 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
They say basketball is a game of runs, and it was evident tonight. Any time either team took a lead of more than five points, it seemed they would get stuck in a scoring drought as the opponent battled back. That is, until Wieksamp had his offensive explosion and took advantage of the fact that numerous Northwestern players were in foul trouble, earning crucial points from the free-throw line.
Iowa kicked the scoring runs off with a 9-2 run to start the first half. But the Wildcats responded with the first run of their own, drawing the score within 1 point at 10-9 thanks to a mini-scoring drought from the Hawkeyes. The teams traded baskets from there and the Wildcats were able to tie things up at 13 with 11:20 left in the half.
But Iowa responded with a run of their own that got them up by as many as 10. With 5 minutes remaining in the half, the Hawkeyes had an opportunity to put their foot on the gas pedal and put the Wildcats behind them. Instead, Northwestern was able to keep it close, thanks to bad Iowa turnovers and second-chance opportunities. Suddenly the Cats were back within 1 at 28-27, and the Hawkeyes couldn’t score.
A late Northwestern 3-pointer knotted everything up at 32, but Isaiah Moss hit a difficult setback jumper to go up by two with mere seconds left on the clock. But Iowa’s defensive difficulties reared its ugly head, and the Hawkeyes gave up a late bucket to enter the break at 34 all.
Northewestern kicked off the second half with a 3 pointer that gave the quad its first lead of the night. It was the beginning of another Wildcat that continued to grow as the Hawkeyes continued to turn the ball over and struggle to create open looks. Quickly, Northwestern had a 7 point lead. Anxiety, ahoy!
A crucial and-1 from Nick Baer cut the lead to four, and the anxiety backed off, especially after the 3-point play was followed by a Joe Wieskamp steal and basket. The Cats responded, and the Hawkeyes were down six when Fran McCaffery called a timeout. He laid into his team, challenging them to defend better.
“There was 17 minutes to go [in the game],” McCaffery told the Big Ten Network after the game. “...you bring them back to reality, [asking] “What got us the lead in the first half? What are we not doing now? What did we talk about doing in the game plan? Just get back to doing what we need to do, and that’s what we did.”
Wieskmap responded in kind off a nice assist from Moss for a trip to the line, which he missed. Despite the missed free throw, Wieskamp came back the next possession and hit a 3-pointer to bring the Hawkeyes back into the lead, which they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
A Garza basket to widen the lead was followed by another basket and trip to the line for Wieskamp, which he converted. The freshman had nearly single-handedly given his team a six point lead. The fact that Wieskamp’s foul also was Vic Law’s fourth didn’t hurt, either. Soon the Hawkeyes were in the bonus with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game.
But the Cats still wouldn’t go away, despite the mounting foul trouble. Northwestern was consistently within 5 points thanks to the referees shifting the foul discrepancy, but Garza and Wieskamp beneath the basket were too much for Northwestern. Good lane penetration from Garza fouled out Derek Parton with 4:07 remaining in the game, and that was all she wrote from there. The foul trouble was too much to overcome, and Jordan Bohannon came alive when it mattered most, scoring all of Iowa’s final six points as a cheer of ‘Let’s go Hawks!’ overtook Welsh-Ryan.
This was a really good road win for many reasons. Primarily, it’s Iowa’s first road win since last season’s comeback win at Illinois. Second, the win game without Iowa’s leading scorer and rebounder, and it was another quiet performance from Jordan Bohannon. Northwestern, like Nebraska, is a pesky squad and this was not a guaranteed win by any means. But Iowa took advantage of the officiating and poor Wildcat shooting from deep and gutted out a win.
There’s still a long way to go in the season, but there’s certainly confidence mounting for Iowa. Let’s hope this is the start of something really good.