January 30, 2016

The positive aspect from Iowa's first conference loss is that any pressure it felt to live up to its lofty ranking and continue the school's best start in Big Ten play in 46 years fades a bit.

That's just the way coach Fran McCaffery likes it.

The third-ranked Hawkeyes look to extend their home winning streak to 14 Sunday by dealing Northwestern a fifth consecutive defeat.

Iowa (16-4, 7-1) responded to a heartbreaking 83-82 loss at then-No. 4 Iowa State on Dec. 10 by winning its next nine, including a pair of victories over Purdue and Michigan State, the latter of which held the top ranking in their Dec. 29 meeting.

The Hawkeyes won their first seven Big Ten games for the first time since going 14-0 in 1969-70, and Jarrod Uthoff emerged in a national player of the year candidate. But Uthoff, who is tied for the conference scoring lead (18.4 points per game) and leads in blocks per game (2.85), went 2 of 13 from the floor and finished with a season-low nine points in Thursday's 74-68 loss at eighth-ranked Maryland.

Iowa was 5 of 24 from 3-point range in its first game as the nation's No. 3 team since 1987 after shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc over its previous four.

"I don't panic either way and neither do (the players)," McCaffery said. "We take a business-like approach. That's how we were Thursday night after the game and before the game.

"That's how we'll be before and after the Northwestern game. If you get too emotional, it makes for a long season."

The Hawkeyes had won 13 straight conference games since Northwestern beat them 66-61 in overtime Feb. 15. Iowa avenged that loss with a 69-52 home victory in the regular-season finale and has won six of the last eight matchups.

The Wildcats (15-7, 3-6) are capping their first stretch of four straight against ranked opponents since 1989-90. They began that run by pushing Maryland to overtime Jan. 19 before falling 62-56, but followed that with an 89-57 loss at then-No. 25 Indiana on Jan. 19 and Thursday's 76-45 home loss to 12th-ranked Michigan State.

Northwestern shot 20.7 percent from the field, its worst mark since hitting 17.9 percent against the Spartans on Jan. 27, 2000. Tre Demps missed all seven of his 3-point attempts and finished with four points, and leading scorer Bryant McIntosh went 4 of 15 from the floor.

McIntosh leads the Big Ten with 6.8 assists per game, but he had only two as the Wildcats finished with more free throws made (17) than field goals (12).

''I can sit up here for an hour and we can talk about a lot of things, but if you can't put the ball in the basket you're not going to win against really good teams,'' coach Chris Collins said. "You're going to have some bumps in the road and some tough nights, especially when you play in the Big Ten."

Uthoff is averaging 19.3 points and shooting 52.4 percent from 3-point range over his last three against the Wildcats, but McCaffery isn't taking Northwestern lightly.

"Northwestern is a team you have to defend," McCaffery said. "It all starts with McIntosh, and they run good stuff. They'll rotate guys and (Collins) has some pieces and can get you with bodies. He has more size and length than he has ever had."

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