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Northwestern advances with upset over Iowa in Big Ten tournament

Northwestern guard Tre Demps (14) goes hop for shot against Iowcenter Adam Woodbury (34) first half an NCAA college basketball

Northwestern guard Tre Demps (14) goes hop for a shot against Iowa center Adam Woodbury (34) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: March 13, 2014 11:22PM

INDIANAPOLIS — Northwestern exorcised its offensive demons Thursday night.

In the first round of the Big Ten tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, everything that went wrong for the Wildcats all season tilted in their favor in a 67-62 victory over Iowa.

Northwestern finished the regular season shooting 32.9 percent from the field. Thursday night the Wildcats shot 52.3 percent. And maligned point guard Dave Sobolewksi, jettisoned from the rotation midway through the year, came up huge for the Wildcats down the stretch.

Sobolewski scored all 10 of his points in the second half, including two threes down late in the game and a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left that put the Wildcats up four.

“Every play is a new play and as a Big Ten basketball player you’ve got to learn to forget about everything that’s happened,” Sobolewski said.

“I just kept working hard. It’s the same game I’ve been playing my whole life. I’ve been playing for these moments since I was a little kid. So just forgetting about everything and in these games we have nothing to lose.”

Sobolewksi didn’t just emerge in the second half. He didn’t score in the first half, but Northwestern coach Chris Collins said he thought Sobolewksi did a great job of setting up the offense.

In particular, he found Tre Demps with the clock winding down in the first half. Demps hit a three that tied the game at 31 heading into the locker room, changing the trajectory of the game.

“We pushed the ball up and Tre hits a great shot,” Collins said. “So you go in feeling good. It’s a tie game and it was our ball. So we came out and we were able to score. So we got the lead right away. I thought it was a huge momentum boost.”

The win, the seventh in school history in the Big Ten Tournament, advances Northwestern to the quarterfinals where it will play Michigan State Friday.

A win over the Spartans would put the Wildcats into the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time in school history. But it won’t be easy for Northwestern to recover overnight.

Four Northwestern players played at least 34 minutes and Drew Crawfrod and Tre Demps each played all 40 minutes.

“Just playing back to back days is something you don’t see very often in college basketball,” Sobolewski said. “The lifespan of for this team is really short right now. So we’re just keeping that in the back of our minds.”


Twitter: @SethGruen

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