INDIANAPOLIS -- This must be rock bottom.
There isn't another level for Iowa (20-12) right now, not after a 67-62 loss to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last night. Partly because Iowa won't play another regular-season game. Partly because after six losses in their last seven games -- with the only win against last-place Purdue -- Iowa has officially bottomed out.
The 11th-seeded Wildcats (14-18), a team Iowa rolled twice by a combined 52 points, slowed down the tempo, crushed shots at the end of the shot clock and frustrated Iowa's offense to wit's end. Northwestern converted three consecutive shots, including two 3-pointers, at the end of the shot clock. Iowa matched the scores, but couldn't match the 3-pointers.
With the score tied 45-45, Tre Demps knocked down a 3-pointer with 7:54 left to give Northwestern a 48-45 lead. Then when Jarrod Uthoff hit a pair of free throws, Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski drilled a shot over Uthoff at the buzzer, this one over Uthoff to boost the lead to three points. Then when Gabe Olaseni putback his own miss to cut the deficit to one, Sobolewski again hit a 3-pointer.
It was routine throughout the game. Iowa would hit a shot or a pair of free throws, and Northwestern would answer.
Iowa trailed 62-56 after a turnaround jumper from Demps. Devyn Marble answered with a traditional three-point play -- he was drilled in the eye by Alex Olah on the way up -- to cut Iowa's deficit to 62-59 with 28 seconds left. Sobolewski then knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch the Northwestern lead back to five.
Uthoff scored on Iowa's next possession to cut the deficit to 64-62 with 20 seconds left. But the Wildcats hit their final four free throws to pull out the win.
Iowa once was a lock for the NCAA tournament, and that still may be the case. But after losing six of its last seven, confidence is in short supply approaching its possible first NCAA bid in eight years.
Marble led all scorers with 25 points. Uthoff scored a career-high 17 for Iowa. Demps led the Wildcats with 20 points.
In the first half, Iowa struggled to gain separation and was tied 31-31 at halftime. The Hawkeyes led 28-21 after a Marble three-point play with 3:46 left in the half, but the Wildcats rallied to score on five of their last seven possessions.
After Marble's three-point play, Demps scooped in an awkward shot to to cut the deficit to five. Then Kale Abrahamson scored and followed two possessions later with a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 28-28 with 42 seconds left.
Iowa milked the clock on its final possession, then Marble drilled a 3-pointer at the top of the key with six seconds left to take a 31-28 lead. Northwestern raced up the floor and Demps knocked down a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer for the tie.
Statistically, some of the same concerns over the past two weeks continues to dog Iowa. Northwestern shot 50 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Hawkeyes 17-11. Entering the game, the Hawkeyes were plus-7.4 this year and the Wildcats were minus-4.1 in rebounding. In their two previous meetings, Iowa outrebounded Northwestern by a combined 37 rebounds.
Iowa took a 9-6 lead at the first media timeout. Five of Iowa's first six shots were 3-point attempts and the only make was from forward Aaron White.
But Iowa kept settling for 3-point attempts and missed seven of its first eight attempts. The Hawkeyes were 4-of-13 from the floor by the second media timeout to trail 11-9.Northwestern faces third-seeded Michigan State (23-8) in a Big Ten quarterfinal Friday night.