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Rapid Reaction: Wildcats cannot keep win streak alive, fall to Iowa 86-70

The Hawkeyes (almost literally) couldn’t miss.

@NUMensBball on Twitter.

In its fourth game in a week, the luck of Chris Collins’ suit seems to have worn out.

The Northwestern Wildcats (15-6, 6-4 B1G) lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes (14-8, 6-5 B1G) 86-70 inside Carver-Hawkeye arena, dropping their first game since pausing due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Wildcats were led by their star backcourt tandem Chase Audige and Boo Buie, with the pair combining for 35 points and five assists, not to mention nine points from Nick Martinelli. A Filip Rebraca double-double guided Iowa with 20 points and ten rebounds, and Payton Sandfort chipped in 20 of his own. Ultimately, it was Iowa’s 48% shooting from beyond the arc that doomed NU.

The ‘Cats controlled the tip, but Audige could not connect on the opening three. On the Hawkeyes’ opening possession, Audige poked it away from Iowa, but NU was unable to find the bottom of the rim. A baby hook from Rebraca opened the scoring, but a good cut by Robbie Beran tied the game. Both teams traded baskets until Ty Berry buried a three to put Northwestern up 9-6 at the first media timeout.

Out of the break, Tydus Verhoeven picked up his first foul mere seconds after checking in but made up for it with a massive rejection. The Hawkeyes, however, went on a 6-0 run to take a 12-11 lead. To answer, a cutting Martinelli was wide open in the paint for an easy bucket, and an Audige steal and crafty layup put the Wildcats back up three. Martinelli hit another floater to keep NU ahead 17-14 with under 12 to play in the first half.

Returning to the floor, Martinelli hit his first Big Ten three, but Iowa did not let the ‘Cats build on their lead, reducing the Northwestern advantage to 22-20 halfway through the first. The Hawkeyes then went on a 7-0 run to go up 25-22, and after a bad offensive possession, Northwestern went into the media timeout searching for answers.

The Wildcats reestablished their defensive prowess coming back from the timeout, forcing two straight Iowa turnovers and retaking the lead. After an airball by the Hawkeyes, Boo Buie pushed the ball down the court and lobbed it to Audige for a one-handed slam. Audige, on the other end of the floor, drew an offensive foul; an irate Fran McCaffery was called for a technical foul, enabling Buie to make two free throws to give Northwestern a 30-25 lead. A three from Audige, bouncing off the front rim, extended the Wildcats’ lead to nine to extend NU’s 13-1 run. The Hawkeyes then answered with a three of their own to stop the bleeding and trimmed the ‘Cats’ lead to 35-29 with a little over three minutes left in the half.

Beran was put on a Murray poster out of the final media break as both teams netted baskets to close out the half. Iowa’s final shot at the buzzer, a Sandfort three, tied the game at 39-39 heading into the locker room.

Both teams played efficiently in the first half, as Northwestern shot 52%, but Iowa was 58% from the field. The ‘Cats’ defense continued to take the ball away, with six steals and three blocks. Martinelli and Audige led the Wildcats with nine points each, and Murray paced Iowa with 10.

Each side refused to hold onto the basketball coming out of the locker room, turning it over on consecutive possessions, and Iowa on back-to-back series. Buie eventually started to find his stroke in the half, nailing a three from dead center to put NU up 44-39. But, Iowa cut the lead back to two, and an iffy offensive foul on Buie was made up by an offensive foul on Murray on the ensuing Iowa possession. The teams exchanged baskets until a three from Connor McCaffrery cut Northwestern’s lead to one at the first media timeout.

Iowa came surging out of the break, going on a 4-0 run to take a three-point lead. A tough fadeaway by Audige slimmed the Hawkeyes lead to one. but home side refused to give the advantage away, finishing at the rim to keep it 55-54 with 11 minutes left to play. Buie, playing with three fouls, was forced to sit.

Brooks Barnhizer put the ‘Cats back up one following a strong rebound, but the lead quickly shifted. Iowa pushed its margin to five on a 6-0 run, forcing Chris Collins to burn a timeout with 8:47 left.

After a cold streak by the ‘Cats, Buie drove to through the lane for a tough layup through contact for an and-one to cut the Northwestern deficit to three, but an Iowa three pushed the lead back to six. The Hawkeyes expanded their advantage to eight before Collins called a timeout to stop the bleeding.

Northwestern had no answer for the Iowa offense, falling behind as much as 79-65 as Sandfort completed a four-point play with 3:36 left to play. During the media timeout, Collins picked up a technical foul of his own, which exacerbated the deficit. Iowa continued to pour it on down the stretch, connecting on six of its final seven field goals, sending the ‘Cats back to Evanston with an 86-70 defeat.

Northwestern is back in action at Welsh-Ryan Arena against Michigan on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT.