CHICAGO, Iowa There was little danger for Iowa in its match-up against Northwestern last night, but the Hawkeyes still had to sweat.
The Wildcats notoriously ruined Iowa's seasons in other sports, but there was no such problems in the teams' Big Ten Tournament first-round game. The Hawkeyes started strong, answered Northwestern runs and advanced with a 73-59 win at the United Center.
But it wasn't easy, despite an impressive start by Iowa (21-11). The Hawkeyes led by 18 points in the first half, Northwestern chopped it to seven with 8:27 left. But Iowa answered with 3-pointers from Devyn Marble and Eric May to take it back to double digits. Northwestern chopped it to eight points with 2:02 left, but Iowa followed with two Marble free throws and a three-point play from Mike Gesell to seal the game.
May came up with the game's most crucial plays to squelch any chance of a Northwestern comeback. May drilled a 3-pointer to give Iowa an 11-point lead with 7 minutes to go. When Iowa led by 10, he grabbed an offensive board that led to a Melsahn Basabe basket. After a pair of Basabe misses from the free-throw line, May rebounded and Basabe followed with two free throws.
May also provided the game's highlight-reel play with a soaring one-handed dunk to put the Hawkeyes up 18 with 5:10 left in the first half. May took off from the blue B1G emblem just past the free-throw line.
Gesell had missed four games with a right foot injury to hit 4-of-9 shots. He finished with 13 points in 23 minutes.
Marble led Iowa with 19 points. Basabe scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, his second straight game with a double-double.
In the first half, Iowa put up a dazzling performance defensively. The Hawkeyes locked in on Northwestern, forcing the Wildcats to miss their first seven shots from the field. Northwestern shot just 32 percent for the half.
The Hawkeyes, conversely, started strong, although several close shots failed to fall. Iowa sophomore Josh Oglesby drilled his first 3-point attempt to give Iowa a 9-0 lead. Senior Eric May followed with an inside basket to take an 11-0 lead.
After the Wildcats scored their first points on a Nikola Cerina basket with 12:31 left in the half, Iowa followed with two Devyn Marble drives to extend their lead to 15-2.
But the Wildcats clawed within striking distance late in the half and trailed 36-22 at halftime.