Iowa men’s basketball to host rising Northwestern squad

The Hawkeyes will have to defend a Wildcat backcourt of Chase Audige and Boo Buie.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery watches his 3-point shot attempt during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023. McCaffery scored 11 points. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 93-82.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa men’s basketball team defeated the Northwestern Wildcats 82-61 last February in the teams’ lone regular season meeting.

Tuesday’s contest featuring the Hawkeyes and Wildcats at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, however, will likely be much more competitive.

Instead of welcoming a sub-.500 ‘Cats squad to Iowa City, as they did a season ago, the Hawkeyes will face a streaking Northwestern team that has won three straight games and stands alone in second place in the Big Ten as of Jan. 29.

The Wildcats’ rise to prominence after a down year last season does not surprise Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery.

“I’m not surprised,” McCaffery said of Northwestern’s resurgence. “I really liked the personnel they had back [from last year]. They’ve got one of the best coaches in the country, and I mean that sincerely. He and his staff know what they’re doing. Veteran guards, really good decision-makers. You got to beat them. They’re not they’re not going to turn it over. They’re not going to give it to you. You got to beat them.”

The Wildcats currently sit at 12th in the nation with a + 4.8 average turnover margin — a mark that leads the Big Ten.

A big part of that turnaround has been the cleaner play of the ‘Cats starting backcourt of seniors Boo Buie and Chase Audige.

While the duo is combining for around five turnovers per game, they also contribute roughly 31 points per night and 7.5 assists.

Both Buie and Audige play over 33 minutes per contest and control much of Northwestern’s offense.

“Boo is as good as anybody in our league, Audige same thing,” McCaffery added.

Defensively, Audige leads the Big Ten in steals with 2.6 per game. He is fifth in the nation in that category.

The Wildcats lost two big men to the transfer portal last offseason as 6-foot-10 Ryan Young and 6-foot-11 Pete Nance left for Duke and North Carolina, respectively.

The big-man duo averaged a combined 25.6 points per game last season for the ‘Cats.

This season, however, 7-foot junior Matthew Nicholson and 6-foot-9 senior Robbie Beran have stepped up to contribute nine points apiece.

“I’ve been really impressed with the fact [that] two guys left, and it’d be easy to say, ‘Oh if we had so and so back,'” McCaffery said. “No, they don’t go there. They would say, ‘You know what? We like who we have.’ Nicholson’s playing really well … [Ty] Berry is really good, Beran’s really good, and they’re getting really good play off the bench. It’ll be a tough game. We know that. [It] always is.”

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