Behind a gargantuan effort from Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern (15-4, 4-2) steamrolled the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes (11-8, 3-3) by the score of 89-54 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday night.
The Wildcats’ point guard and captain, who has struggled with his shot so far this season, racked up 20 points on 9-11 shooting to go along with 10 assists, while his backcourt mate paced the team with 22 points of his own, 14 of which came in the second half as Northwestern emphatically pulled away.
It was the Wildcats’ third win on the bounce in the Big Ten, and after a 1-2 start in conference play they now sit in a tie for third place.
Vic Law was perhaps equally as immense as the two backcourt aces. He put an iron clamp on Big Ten Player of the Year front-runner Peter Jok, holding him to a season-low four points on just 2-of-9 shooting, while also adding 12 points of his own for good measure.
Dererk Pardon was also dominant down low for the Wildcats, with 14 points, a near double-double, and a multitude of rim-rattling dunks.
Pardon set the tone on the first two possessions of the game as the Wildcats raced out of the gates. Working against an all-freshman Iowa frontline, he crammed in a put-back for Northwestern’s first bucket of the game, before his emphatic rejection of Cordell Pemsl on the other end led to a Lindsey three in transition.
More work on the offensive glass from Sanjay Lumpkin led to another triple, this time from McIntosh, and Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffrey was forced to call a very early timeout with his team in an 8-0 hole.
Iowa came out of the timeout in a 3/4-court press in an effort to stem the Wildcats’ early momentum, but Northwestern uncharacteristically took the increased defensive pressure in stride. They took care of the ball well, and McIntosh and Pardon were both able to get to the basket again for easy scores to extend the lead to 12-4.
With Jok struggling early under the watchful eye of Law, it was not until the 15:25 mark that the Hawkeyes managed their first field goal of the night, with impressive freshman Tyler Cook hitting a jumper.
But despite breaking the ice, Iowa’s offense continued to look discombobulated against Northwestern’s stifling defense. They turned the ball over three times on four possessions, and the Wildcats capitalized with five points from Law and two from Isiah Brown off the bench to extend their lead to 19-9 with 13 minutes remaining in the half.
Big man Ryan Kreiner tried to bring his team to life with instant offense off the Hawkeyes’ bench, but his six quick points were answered by the aggressive tandem of Lindsey and McIntosh, who maintained Northwestern’s cushion with a series of strong drives to the goal.
However, Iowa showed resolve to get back in the game. Following Jordan Bohannon’s second deep three of the game and a score off a turnover, Jok’s first basket brought the Hawkeyes to within three at 25-22 with eight minutes to play.
The Iowa resurgence did not last long, however. McIntosh hit a patented floater, before a layup from Law and a Gavin Skelly three that touched every part of the rim before finally going down restored a double-digit lead for the Wildcats at 32-22.
Turnovers were a problem for an inexperienced Iowa team the whole first half, and they’re what turned that 7-0 Northwestern spurt into a game-changing run. Brown—who was an immense spark off the Wildcat bench—stripped and dished to McIntosh for a transition layup, before stroking a triple from the corner that stretched the lead to 37-23 at the five-minute mark. A monster slam from Skelly on the break after another Hawkeye giveaway blew the lid off Welsh-Ryan and forced McCaffrey into another timeout.
In all, it was a 14-1 Northwestern run that extended the gap from three to 16 in a 3:34 stretch.
In a wild half that was defined by runs of all kinds, Iowa then showed yet more resolve by trimming the deficit immediately back to single digits with their own 7-0 spurt. However, Northwestern’s 5-0 answer, thanks in part to an ‘and-1’ from Lindsey, sent them into the halftime locker room still ahead with a relatively comfortable 44-32 lead.
McIntosh was the star of the opening period, pouring in a game-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and adding four assists.
Law added seven points of his own, but his most important contribution of the half was holding free-scoring Jok to just four tallies and a 2-of-7 clip from the field.
The Hawkeyes’ 10 points from the line were their only salvation in a half where they turned the ball over nine times and allowed Northwestern to out-rebound them by a margin of eight. Cook was his team’s high man with 10, six of which came from the line.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first, with McIntosh hitting yet another floater and Lindsey converting a driving layup to push his total on the night to double-figures. Another McIntosh bucket in the paint—which gave him his high point total in Big Ten play with 17 just three minutes into the half—and a Pardon dunk from a McIntosh dime then quickly pushed the lead to 52-34. At 18, it was Northwestern’s largest lead of the game.
Iowa again showed grit, whittling the deficit down to 13 before the 15-minute mark. Kriener’s shooting off the bench was again at the forefront of the Hawkeye resistance, as he hit two deep jumpers as part of a 7-2 run.
Lindsey’s scoring looked like it would be enough to stop the comeback bid in its tracks, but there was again a scare for Chris Collins and his team when Nicholas Baer hit a corner three with 13 minutes remaining to reign their lead back into single digits at 56-47.
The Wildcats were not phased, however, and another Pardon jam followed by a Lumpkin three quickly brought the lead back to 14.
Lumpkin’s long ball kicked off a three-point barrage for the Wildcats that blew the game wide open. Lindsey, then McIntosh, then Law hit from deep on three consecutive possessions to give Northwestern its first 20-point lead of the night at 70-50 with 8:57 to go, before a wild in-and-out triple from Lindsey found the bottom of the nat and well and truly iced the game with 7:45 remaining.
From there, the floodgates opened. In a lethal 28-4 run that lasted from the 12:51 to the 4:10 marks of the second half, Northwestern extended its lead to 33 points with McIntosh and Lindsey running the show. It was a stretch that closed the curtains on a Northwestern win as dominant as any in recent years.