Riding a three-game win streak, Northwestern traveled to Iowa City on Tuesday to cap off the month of January against Iowa.
Both teams exchanged the lead early after tip-off, exchanging buckets to keep the score relatively close. While senior forward Robbie Beran opened the scoring for the Wildcats, a couple possessions later, redshirt senior guard Chase Audige’s fadeaway jumper lifted NU in front of the Hawkeyes..
In addition, graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven’s second chance layup inside the paint pushed the Cats’ lead to a whopping five points in the first frame.
Although NU gained momentum early into the first half, Iowa did not give them a reprieve on the defensive end of the floor, shooting from the perimeter and driving inside the paint. Despite the Hawekyes’ motion in the middle of the first period, the Cats’ offensive diversity allowed them to seize the upperhand.
Over the final few minutes of the first half, NU saw their lead as high as nine, capped by a pullup three by Audige. However, the Cats were unable to maintain their lead, as Iowa tied the score at 39 by the intermission.
To open the second half, senior guard Boo Buie went on a personal 5-0 run. The Albany, New York native led scoring for the squad with 20 points in Tuesday’s loss. A second-chance layup by sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer was the last time NU saw themselves with the lead by the halfway point in the second half. A 13-5 Hawkeyes run over the next few minutes saw the Cats facing their first double digit deficit in the final several minutes of the contest, making it difficult for any attempts for a late comeback.
Here are three takeaways from NU’s contest against Iowa:
1. Northwestern’s offense finds ability to go on runs after scoring droughts
While the Cats held the lead for most of the first helped in Tuesday’s matchup, the offense had multiple three minute scoring droughts. A floater by Martinelli assisted by sophomore guard Brooks Barnizer broke the first three minute scoring drought in the thirteen minute mark of the first half. Minutes later, a three by Martinelli assisted by Buie, gave NU a quick 9-3 run. A three by the Glenview native ensured that the Cats maintained their lead over the course of the first half.
Later in the first half, the Cats had drought a nearly-four minute scoring. The Cats rapidly saw their once five point advantage evolve into a three point deficit midway through the first quarter. A dunk by junior center Matthew Nicholson assisted by Audige snapped the Cats scoring draught and sparked the offense once again.
A marvelous alley-oop pass by Buie that led to a vicious one-handed slam by Audige led the way to a 8-0 run over a minute and a 13-1 run over a four minute stretch. This momentum propelled the Cats to grasp a nine point advantage, their highest of the game.
2. The Cats bench leads the way in the first half
Whether a Cats fan or not, everyone knows about Auidge and Buie, two players who lead the team on both sides of the floor game in and game out. On Tuesday night, however, two players who are not known as served by many major contributions to the Cats: Martinelli and Verhoeven.
With sophomore guard Julian Roper II remaining sidelined with an ankle injury, Martinelli took full advantage of the extended minutes he received. The Glenview, Illinois native was actively involved on the offensive side of the floor, sinking in multiple floaters and burying a three. By the intermission, the freshman forward was three-for-three shooting from the field, recording nine points, which was tied with Audige for NU’s highest scorers.
On the defensive side, Tydus Verhoeven was excellent. The graduate student topped off an impressive performance a couple of days prior with his best half in a Cats uniform. Inside the paint, Verhoeven ensured the Hawkeyes were left with empty possessions. The forward had three blocks in the first half, ensuring the Cats did not see themselves facing a large deficit at any point in the first half. On the glass, Verhoeven was equally valuable, recording a team-high four rebounds. A layup by the UTEP transfer extended the Cats lead to six late in the first half.
3. Northwestern continues to turn defense into offense
It is no secret that the Cats identity has been established on the defensive end. Yet, NU’s offense has been resurgent over the latter half of January, thanks to its ability to score points off turnovers. The same story was true Tuesday night. A steal and pull up by junior forward Ty Berry and a steal and coast-coast-coast reverse coast fast break reverse layup by Audige enabled the Cats to run downhill immediately following forced turnovers.
Multiple steals by Buie and Audige throughout the first half allowed the Cats to continue forcing turnovers even when the Hawkeyes went on scoring runs. The veteran duo combined to have four of the Cats six first-half steals. By the end of the first half, the Cats scored ten points off turnovers.
Over the course of the second half, the Cats offense saw itself become stagnant, largely due to their inability to force turnovers like they did in the first half. A steal leading to a running driving layup by Buie were two of merely four cats points off turnovers in the second half.
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