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Preview: Northwestern at Iowa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Northwestern's tough start to Big Ten Conference play continues Thursday with a trip to No. 24 Iowa. The Wildcats, who have been outscored by a combined 50 points in losses to Wisconsin and Michigan, face ranked opponents Iowa and Michigan State sandwiched around a game versus Illinois in a span of seven days. Iowa will be without coach Fran McCaffery, who was suspended for one game by the Big Ten after an outburst led to two technical fouls and his ejection in Sunday's loss at Wisconsin.

Iowa's Aaron White (65.7 percent) and Jarrod Uthoff (57.8) and Northwestern's Alex Olah (57.4) rank among the league's top five in field-goal percentages but Thursday's game features two different offenses. The Hawkeyes top the Big Ten in scoring (86.1) while Northwestern is last in the league and ranks 320th nationally at 64.5 points. Iowa, which won all three meetings with Northwestern last season, has won 18 straight at home.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU.

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (7-8, 0-2 Big Ten): Olah, who averages 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, hit 14-of-19 shots for a combined 35 points in the losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. Drew Crawford leads the Wildcats with 16 points and 7.3 rebounds and JerShon Cobb adds 11.5 points. Tre Demps chips in 10.1 points off the bench for Northwestern, which is 1-5 away from home this season.

ABOUT IOWA (12-3, 1-1): Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes - who also top the Big Ten in scoring margin (plus-20.5) and field-goal defense (36.2 percent) - with 16.1 points. White adds 13.1 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds while Uthoff adds 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds off the bench. Mike Gesell has a 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio while the Hawkeyes are forcing 14.2 turnovers and outrebounding opponents by 9.7.

TIP-INS

1. Iowa's three losses - each by five or less points - were to teams with a combined 42-1 record.

2. The Big Ten Conference also fined Iowa $10,000 and publicly reprimanded McCaffery this week for his outburst.

3. Uthoff and Demps are ranked first and second, respectively, as the league's top bench scorers.

PREDICTION: Iowa 79, Northwestern 62

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140109/preview-northwestern-at-iowa