March 13, 2014
By Callie Counsellor
INDIANAPOLIS -- In season that featured several memorable victories under first-year head coach Chris Collins, Northwestern achieved the most unforgettable win yet Thursday night when it upset the Iowa Hawkeyes in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, 67-62.
As was the case for much of the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats dug in on the defensive end to get the job done Thursday. No. 11 Northwestern held the high-scoring, sixth-seeded, Hawkeyes to a season-low 62 points and a pedestrian shooting mark of 32.3 percent, well below their average of 46.9 percent. On the other side of the court, Northwestern was draining buckets at a pace of 52.3 percent. The 'Cats sank 11 three-point baskets, making nearly 48 percent of their attempts from downtown. It was the fourth time this season that the Wildcats shot over 50 percent and the first time against a Big Ten foe.
Drew Crawford and Tre Demps couldn't miss, the defense brought its signature pressure and the Wildcats squeaked out an upset victory to advance in the Big Ten Tournament.
The teams matched each other shot-for-shot the entire game, with neither squad gaining more than a seven-point lead throughout the contest.
Most of NU's biggest shots came from the able hands of an All-Big Ten honoree, Crawford, and one of the conference's breakout players, Demps. The dynamic duo combined for 35 of Northwestern's 67 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Both ironmen played the entire 40 minutes. Demps' five assists matched a career high, as did his four three-point baskets.
Point guard Dave Sobolewski added 10 points, all of which came in the second half. The co-captain also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists for the 'Cats.
NU dictated the tempo from the start with its suffocating defensive effort. Iowa, which averaged 82.6 points per game during the regular season, was on pace for just over 60 after the first 20 minutes of play.
The Hawkeyes held their biggest advantage near the end of the first half at 28-21, but Demps and sophomore Kale Abrahamson kicked it into overdrive to close the gap.
The streak started with a layup from Demps, followed by a jumper from Abrahamson. After a block from sophomore Sanjay Lumpkin on the other end, Crawford fed the ball to Abrahamson at the top of the key, and the native Iowan nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 28.
Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble answered the triple with a three of his own. With 10 seconds left before half, Iowa thought they would take a lead into the locker room, but the Hawks left plenty of time for Demps to keep his hot streak going. The redshirt sophomore pulled up about three feet beyond the arc just left of center and let the ball fly, nailing the basket to send the teams to halftime tied, 31-31.
The beginning of the second period looked like the end of the first on replay--Demps came out firing, hitting a triple less than 15 seconds into the half to put the 'Cats up by three.
Just to show that he can do more than score, the Texan disrupted a pass under the basket on the other end and grabbed a clutch steal.
At this point, the rest of the Wildcats began to catch the three-point bug. Abrahamson knocked down another triple, followed a few minutes later by Crawford as NU maintained a six-point lead.
The Hawkeyes were not going to leave without a fight. For five and a half straight minutes, they held the Cats scoreless and slowly climbed back into the game, until they had tied NU at 45-45.
With eight minutes left in the game, Iowa's streak was stopped by, who else, Demps, with an assist from Crawford.
NU maintained its slim lead until a Sobolewski three-pointer finally game it some breathing room, 60-53.
The Hawkeyes managed to cut the lead to three with 22 seconds left, but Sobolewski and Alex Olah each made two free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
Crawford finished with 15 points and with 1,899 in his career, he is now one point shy of matching Billy McKinney in second place on the school's all-time scoring list.
Northwestern's win was the first victory in the conference tournament since the 2011 campaign. It also marked the first win for any 11th seed since 1999.
Northwestern will move on to the quarterfinals, where they will take on third-seeded Michigan State at approximately 8 p.m. CT Friday. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
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The 11th-seeded Wildcats advance to face second-seeded Michigan State in the quarterfinal round on Friday