A recent trend suggests that the Iowa men’s basketball team could have a difficult time Sunday playing against Northwestern.
Northwestern still hasn’t gotten over the hump as far as making the NCAA Tournament for the first time. But the Wildcats have figured out how to defeat Iowa, winning six of the past seven games versus the Hawkeyes and nine of the past 11 games played against Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena, which is the site for Sunday’s game.
The task of solving Northwestern could be more difficult for Iowa if leading scoring Devyn Marble is unable to play because of an ankle injury. The 6-foot-6 junior swingman didn’t play in Thursday’s 62-59 loss to Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena because of the injury.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after the game that Marble was “iffy” for the Northwestern game.
Nothing changed with regard to Marble’s status Saturday, although he tweeted Saturday morning that he was boarding the team bus and heading to Northwestern.
McCaffery didn’t have any additional comments about Marble’s status for the Northwestern game, which will start at 4:35 p.m.
Marble leads Iowa in scoring with a 15.5 per-game average and 23 3-point baskets.
Iowa struggled without him on offense against Michigan State and is now at risk of falling to 0-4 in the Big Ten for just the third time since the 1999-2000 season.
Northwestern is coming off a 70-54 victory at Penn State on Thursday and has records of 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten.
McCaffery criticized his players for lacking toughness in each of the past two games. The problem against Michigan State was a lack of toughness on offense, while during the 95-67 loss at No. 2 Michigan on Dec. 6, it was a lack of toughness on defense.
Iowa was thought to be a sleeper pick with regard to making the NCAA Tournament this season, but with each conference loss the margin for error gets smaller.
“This is disappointing, but this is the fun part because as quickly as we lost three games, we could win three games,” Iowa junior forward Melsahn Basabe said. “I’m not looking ahead, but only to the Northwestern game Sunday.
“We’ve had two really close games at home and you’ve got to pull those through. The home court is just so important.”
McCaffery was asked after the loss to No. 22 Michigan State how important it would’ve been for Iowa’s postseason resume to get a victory over a nationally-ranked opponent.
“I’m not thinking about that at all,” McCaffery said. “I’m just thinking about how we’re going to win the next game on our schedule.”
Northwestern is trying to stay afloat in the rugged Big Ten without two of its best players.
Senior swingman Drew Crawford decided in mid-December to undergo season-ending surgery on a torn labrum. He played in 10 games and was the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game, along with 4.6 rebounds. Crawford is eligible for a medical redshirt and could return for a fifth season.
The Wildcats also are without athletic guard JerShon Cobb, who is serving a season-long suspension reportedly because of academic issues.
Senior Eric May replaced Marble in the starting lineup against Michigan State and grabbed seven rebounds, but he only scored five points. Sophomore reserve guard John Oglesby also was held scoreless against the Spartans.
Iowa’s reserves actually outscored the starters 31-28 against Michigan State thanks largely to contributions from Basabe and junior forward Zach McCabe. Basabe made all five of his field-goal attempts, was 4-of-5 from the free throw line and finished with 14 points. McCabe came off the bench to lead Iowa in scoring against Michigan State with 15 points.
McCaffery has hinted that he might shuffle his starting lineup, but he said after Thursday’s loss to Michigan State that Marble would return to the starting lineup when healthy.
“No question about that,” McCaffery said. “Eric will go back to the bench if Devyn is OK.”
Reach Pat Harty 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball