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Wildcats’ Lindsey-led comeback falls short in 77-70 loss to Hawkeyes

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The regular season is mercifully over.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s pretend the last two weeks never happened, okay?

Northwestern (15-16, 6-12) ended the regular season on a six-game losing streak, losing to Iowa (13-18, 4-14) 77-70. Jordan Bohannon led the Hawkeyes with 23 points, while the short-handed Wildcats were led by Scottie Lindsey, who scored a career-high 32 points.

After jumping out to a big lead in the first half, Iowa never really put the game away, which allowed Northwestern (really just Lindsey) to claw its way back into the game. With just one player scoring in double-digits for the Wildcats, though, it was not enough.

The game had a furious start, with the teams combining to shoot 8-of-14 from the field. The Hawkeyes play at the fastest tempo in the conference and it was clear from the beginning that they were controlling the pace of the game. Luka Garza was active, scoring a quick seven points to help Iowa jump out to an early lead.

The Wildcats’ zone defense was shredded by the Hawkeyes in the first half. Iowa shot 9-of-19 from downtown, generating open looks in transition and with some crisp passing in the halfcourt. Northwestern even switched to a man-to-man defense to try to staunch the bleeding, but to no avail.

Bohannon was brilliant in the first half, scoring 20 points and canning six triples to lead the Hawkeye offense, which led by as many as 22 points. Bohannon, who is shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range this season, was knocking them down from NBA-range, stretching the Wildcats’ defense thin.

With all the injuries on the roster, Chris Collins inserted Tino Malnati briefly during the first half. Unfortunately, he did not contribute much. The Wildcats’ short rotation, coupled with some early foul trouble to Gavin Skelly and Aaron Falzon, forced Collins to play Dererk Pardon and Barret Benson together, something that has happened in only one other game this season.

Among the positives in the first half were Lindsey and Benson, who combined for 17 of the Wildcats’ 28 points. With Bryant McIntosh playing limited minutes, Lindsey was tasked with primary ball-handling and playmaking duties, and he delivered, hitting some tough threes to keep Northwestern in the game early.

Benson brought some great energy off the bench, battling inside on both ends, including an acrobatic offensive rebound putback. The Wildcats also held Iowa without a field goal for the last 4:44 of the half as they tried to claw themselves back into the contest.

McIntosh didn’t play in the second half, opting to ice his injured shoulder, perhaps with an eye on the Big Ten Tournament. In his place, Isiah Brown got a lot of shots up, but did not make many. Lindsey was the Wildcats’ only source of consistent offense. This proved to be problematic, as Northwestern only took seven free throws, a clear product of the team’s lack of playmaking. To make up for it, the team shot 9-of-15 from downtown in the second half.

The Wildcats kept chipping away, cutting the Hawkeyes’ lead down to 12 with 4:50 to play. Bohannon, and the team as a whole, cooled considerably after halftime, giving Northwestern the opportunity to climb back into the game. Two triples from Lindsey cut the deficit to eight with 2:43 to go. The Wildcats wouldn’t get any closer until Lindsey’s ninth three-point make to end the game, which tied a school record.

Vic Law missed his second-straight game with an ankle injury. Gaines started in his place, scoring nine points and dishing a career-high six assists.

Northwestern will play Penn State (19-12, 9-9) on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.