Iowa men's basketball's win streak continues with blowout over Northwestern in final home game
For the second straight night, fans packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena searching for a strong end to the regular season. On Sunday the Iowa women's team captured a share of the Big Ten championship and Monday night's finale was a bid goodbye to the Iowa men's basketball seniors.
Austin Ash, coach Fran McCaffery's son Connor and multiple record holder Jordan Bohannon's final game at Carver wasn't an eye-popping one on the scoreboard (at least initally) but a dominant performance nonetheless. With it, Iowa won their seventh game of eight in the month of February.
Iowa (21-8, 11-7) defeated Northwestern (13-15, 6-13) by an 82-61 margin for their final win of the season at home. The Hawkeyes are on a four-game winning streak with all wins coming by double digits.
In what very well could be his last home game as well, sophomore star Keegan Murray left a lasting impression: 24 points, 17 rebounds and two steals. The other two Hawkeyes in double figures were seniors Bohannon (18 points) and McCaffery (17 points) who also combined for nine 3-pointers.
Despite 82 points, just under their 84-point season average, it wasn't Iowa's best night offensively. Their 35/25/66 shooting split resulting in 36 first half points likely won't get it done against the Big Ten's upper echelon but Iowa can hang their hat on their best defensive performance of the season.
Iowa held Northwestern to 20 first-half points, the fewest points allowed in the first half this season. The Wildcats only managed eight scores on 36 total possessions while shooting only 22% from the field overall. But where they were most affected was in the turnover game. Entering Monday, Northwestern trailed only Iowa in fewest possessions per game and assist-to-turnover ratio. At halftime, Northwestern had only three assists to nine turnovers, leading to 10 additional Iowa points. For the game, Iowa forced 15 Northwestern turnovers.
Their efforts in getting into Northwestern passing lanes were matched by their efforts on the boards. Even with Iowa's offense struggling, they attempted 13 more shots than Northwestern due to a +15 advantage in rebounding margin.
Toward the end of the game Austin Ash received his senior moment: a logo three-pointer in the closing minutes that sent the crowd into an uproar, senior manager Jack Delvin nailed a half court shot during a timeout and rushed by the team at mid-court and finally: Bohannon and McCaffery left the game to a standing ovation.
In the final games for a few central figures to Iowa men's basketball's culture, it couldn't have ended better.
Now, the rest of Iowa's work must be done away from home in two highly anticipated rematches: at Michigan on Thursday and at Illinois on Sunday.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.