We have said this multiple times this season, but this is a new rock bottom for 2018-19 Northwestern men’s basketball.
In a game controlled by Northwestern (12-11, 3-9 B1G) in Iowa City on Sunday night, the Wildcats fell to No. 20 Iowa (19-5, 8-5 B1G), 80-79, on a game-winning buzzer-beating three from Jordan Bohannon. The Wildcats led by 12 points with under 3 minutes remaining and by 5 points with 33 seconds left.
The collapse was bookended by clutch shooting from Bohannon (15 pts), who had been quiet all game up to that point. The star junior guard nailed a three to get the crowd going at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but Ryan Taylor grabbed an offensive rebound and put in a layup to keep the Wildcats in control. However, the Hawkeyes had shifted into a new gear. Freshman Joe Weiskamp (21 pts, 4 rebounds) nailed a trey of his own, then Bohannon made another, then Weiskamp hit a fast break field goal to cut the Hawkeye deficit to three.
Dererk Pardon (13 pts, 7 rebounds) got to the line and nailed both of his free throws, and A.J. Turner (15 pts, 75% shooting) had a chance to ice the game after drawing a foul of his own on the next Northwestern possession. However, Turner missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Isaiah Moss (16 points) immediately made him pay with a basket to pull Iowa within one with 16 seconds left. Vic Law drew a foul but missed his second free throw. Forgoing the chance to tie the game, Bohannon pulled up from downtown and drained his game-winning shot to send Carver-Hawkeye into mayhem.
It was an absolutely thrilling finish, in the worst way possible. Bohannon and Weiskamp deserve credit for their clutch shooting, but there is no doubt that Northwestern blew a chance at a high-quality win by missing free throws and crumbling under pressure. Overall, the Wildcats shot 52% and far surpassed Chris Collins’ stated 65-point goal, but still failed to secure their first win in Iowa City since 2012.
The first half was characterized by Vic Law’s resurgence after a string of poor games since returning from injury. Law (24 points, 10 rebounds) knocked down a three on his first shot of the night and never looked back - he scored his first nine points off three-pointers and wound up with 19 in the half to go along with six rebounds. Turner was the Robin to Law’s Batman, adding 13 points of his own. However, though stingy, the Wildcat defense was unable to suppress the Hawkeyes’ balanced scoring attack, and Northwestern led at the half by just six.
Northwestern slowly built upon their lead throughout the second half, but racked up fouls in the process. Iowa, the best team in the Big Ten at getting to the free throw line, was in the bonus with well over 12 minutes remaining, and Pardon – the rock of this Northwestern team on both ends of the floor – was in danger of fouling out. The continued absence of Pete Nantz (mono) was apparent, as Pardon could not stay on the bench for an extended period of time. Defensively, Northwestern forced a lot of turnovers (18 total) en route to a 15-point lead with 4:30 to go.
With the loss – their fourth in a row – Northwestern falls to 12th in the Big Ten, behind Rutgers (sigh). Any hope of making even the NIT are long gone, morale is at a season low, and some fans are arguing that it was a big mistake to give Collins a long-term contract. The state of Northwestern basketball is decidedly not strong.
Northwestern looks to pick up a much needed win on Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan arena vs. the aforementioned Rutgers (11-12, 4-9 B1G).