With marquee matchups against Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota looming, it would be easy for Northwestern to looks past its Thursday bout with Iowa.
Head coach Bill Carmody isn’t worried his Wildcats, currently sitting at 14-8 on the campaign, will look beyond their matchup with Iowa. After all, they’re ahead of NU in the Big Ten standings.
“They’ve got five wins and we don’t, so they’re ahead of us,” said Carmody of the Hawkeyes. “They’re dangerous because they’re pretty good.”
The Hawkeyes have endured and up-and-down season which includes double-digit losses against Campbell and Northern Iowa, and four wins over top-50 RPI teams—two of which came on the road.
Iowa has won its last two games and has made improvements after a rocky start to the season.
Senior guard Matt Gatens is one of three Hawkeyes in double-figure scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game on the year. Forward Aaron White posted a 17-point, nine-rebound performance against Penn State on Saturday, and was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week (along with NU’s David Sobolewski).
“It’s a very good team,” Carmody said. “I think they have good personnel, they’re playing hard, a lot of different guys that can hurt you.”
The Wildcats have their sights set on the Big Dance, and two straight wins have added legitimacy to their high hopes. Northwestern is focused on its matchup with a tough Iowa team, and isn’t looking ahead.
“We know what we have to do to make the tournament, it’s just a matter of taking it one game at a time,” said NU guard Alex Marcotullio. “Just concentrate on our opponent ahead of us. Not getting ahead of ourselves, we’ve got Iowa on Thursday, we don’t want to be looking forward to Ohio State, at Indiana or at Purdue, so we’re going to take it one game at a time and go from there.”
Northwestern opened up Big Ten play losing six of its first eight games, so each remaining game is crucial to the team’s tournament hopes.
“You just have to take it one game at a time,” said John Shurna, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. “No game is easy in the Big Ten; we’ve found that out the hard way, especially early on. It’s tough to win any game in the Big Ten. You have to defend your home court. We’re trying to do that against Iowa on Thursday.”
The Hawkeyes are gradually improving and present a tough test for Northwestern.
Iowa may be hungry and looking for another big win, but as Bill Carmody pointed out: “We’re hungry too.”