EVANSTON, Ill. — Iowa needed a little separation from spunky Northwestern. Sophomore point guard Mike Gesell delivered it with one shot early in the second half.
Gesell drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the No. 10 Hawkeyes (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten) an 11-point lead and spurred a 76-50 rout of Northwestern on Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It was Iowa’s largest road win against a Big Ten opponent since a 27-point win at Northwestern on March 5, 1987.
More importantly, it erased the empty feeling of an eight-point loss at Michigan on Wednesday.
“We lost a tough one against Michigan, and we showed a lot of character today to be able to bounce back like we did, especially with the short turnaround,” Gesell said. “We really did a good job of just putting Michigan behind us and watching the film and going back and learning from it and not staying down or anything like that.”
Gesell’s aggressiveness was vital for Iowa, which traded scores with a team it had beaten by 26 points two weeks ago. Iowa’s first-half statistics belied the halftime scoreboard, yet the 30-24 Iowa advantage was the only numbers that had value. Iowa nearly doubled Northwestern’s rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor. But 10 turnovers mangled Iowa’s flow and threatened to keep the Wildcats within striking distance.
A Tre Demps 3-pointer brought Northwestern within 34-30 with 17:06 left in the game. Iowa then started to get into a groove. Devyn Marble scored to boost the lead to six, and Melsahn Basabe added a pair of free throws to push it to eight. Then Gesell buried his 3-pointer and, sandwiched around a Drew Crawford jumper, scored on a drive to extend the lead to double digits.
“I’m always going to look to shoot when I’m open,” Gesell said. “(Adam Woodbury) got me a very good screen, got me open and I was able to knock it down.”
Gesell finished with 11 points, six assists, two steals and only one turnover. He leads the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, and was solid in defending Northwestern point guard JerShon Cobb, who had seven points and three turnovers.
“Once they went to the different lineup with Cobb at the point, we had to get up into his face,” McCaffery said. “Mike got after Cobb, got after ball screens, and Mike didn’t seem to tire. We got him out in both halves, and he had 26 minutes. We expect six (assists) and one (turnover), but the 3 that put us up 11, our first double-digit lead, that was a huge basket for us.”
“I just felt like I needed to be aggressive,” Ges
ell said. “I feel like when I’m aggressive it opens up things for other guys, maybe dump-downs to Woody and Gabe (Olaseni), open the perimeter up. I just wanted to play aggressive on both ends of the court.”
From there, Iowa got defensive stops and moved the ball in transition. Over the last 17 minutes, Iowa outscored Northwestern 42-20. The Hawkeyes shot nearly 52 percent for the game, had 17 assists on 28 baskets and outrebounded Northwestern 44-20.
After a season-low eight points at Michigan, Iowa’s bench scored 32 points.
“It’s something that we’ve come to expect, and it didn’t happen in the last game,” McCaffery said. “But I suspected today they’d be ready, and they performed really well.”
The Hawkeyes trimmed their turnovers from 10 in the first half to five in the second.
“Turnovers were a problem,” McCaffery said. “I got on them at halftime and I didn’t think we could turn it over 10 times in the second half and win. I honestly believed that despite the fact that we shot it wel,l and we rebounded it well.”
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