Iowa State and Northwestern will lock up in the championship game of the Chicago Invitational this evening. The Cyclones are coming off of a 65-54 win over St. Louis while Northwestern upset Notre Dame last night by a score of 72-58.
It’s the Big 12 versus the Big Ten this evening in Chicago. Who will come out on top? Let’s break it down.
Breaking down Northwestern
The Wildcats are 4-1 heading into tonight’s match-up with the Cyclones. That one loss came to a solid Butler team on Nov. 18 (67-54). Northwestern really turned some heads in last night’s convincing win over the Irish. In that game, a sophomore forward named John Shurna scored a career-high 25 points to lead the way.
Michael Thompson, who scored 20 against Notre Dame, is the leader of Northwestern’s offense. Thompson, a Chicago native started all 31 games a season ago. He played every single minute for Northwestern in the Notre Dame win.
The most telling stat of the victory over Notre Dame is that Northwestern held the Irish to 31.7 percent shooting from the field. That’s not good news for an Iowa State team that only shot 37.9 percent from the field last night against St. Louis.
What makes Northwestern’s surge over the Irish even more impressive is the fact that they did it without two of their best players. Senior forward Kevin Coble was a second-team All-Big Ten pick a season ago. He injured his foot in practice earlier in the month and will miss the entire season. The Wildcats are also playing without Jeff Ryan, a senior role player who saw time in 27 games a year ago. He injured his ACL earlier this month.
Nonetheless, the season is looking bright right now for the Cats. Northwestern was picked by most outlets to finish either seventh or eighth in the Big Ten.
Breaking down the Cyclones
The Cyclones and the Wildcats have only played once before in the history of these two programs. That was way back in 1949. That means nothing when talking about tonight’s contest but the good news is that Iowa State won that meeting 64-54, in case you’re a history buff.
Craig Brackins and Diante Garrett led the way for Iowa State last night scoring 16 points a piece.
Iowa State struggled against a man-to-man defense again last night against St. Louis. That’s becoming a common issue for this Cyclone team that is now 6-0 on the young season.
The status of LaRon Dendy is still up in the air this afternoon. According to Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott after last night’s win, Dendy would be evaluated sometime today. Still, don’t expect him to be on the floor against Northwestern. If he plays, that’s a big bonus.
After watching part of Northwestern’s win over Notre Dame, there’s no question that Iowa State is the superior team when it comes to athleticism. However, the Wildcats are a solid defensive basketball team. Holding Notre Dame to 31.7 percent shooting is impressive. St. Louis dominated Iowa State in the paint during last night’s first half. The Cyclones absolutely have to keep attacking down low this evening and not get reliant on the often-streaky 3-point shot.
I’m still kind of in shock that these two teams are playing tonight. It’s great for us stuck in Central Iowa. Now, we get to watch.
I’m just thinking back to all of the season prediction columns that were written that had Notre Dame included in Iowa State’s schedule. Many of those predictions (mine included) pegged the Cyclones to pick up their first loss of the season tonight. It’s not to say that Iowa State couldn’t beat Notre Dame, because after last night, I think that the Cyclones could. This is now a perfect opportunity for Iowa State to begin the year 7-0 and throw a win on the record that many didn’t think would be there.
The one thing that I have noticed about this team so far this season is that if they have an off night of shooting, it’s not normal to see two in a row. The Cyclones did not shoot the ball well last night hitting 37.9 percent from the field. That number needs to be closer to 50 tonight.
This game is frightening when you consider that it’s like a home game for the Wildcats. Plus, you know they are going to be sky high after last night’s win.
What Northwestern team will show up? The one that beat Notre Dame or the one that squeaked past Tennessee State by seven?
I’m picking a close Cyclone victory this evening and a championship in the Chicago Invitational.
Iowa State 70, Northwestern 66