The No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes visit the Northwestern Wildcats for a key Big Ten contest on Sunday.
The No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2, 5-1) have a chance Sunday to move into a first-place tie atop the Big Ten standings after Michigan lost at Minnesota on Saturday. Standing in their way are the Northwestern Wildcats (6-5, 3-4), who have lost four in a row since breaking into the Top 25 at the end of December.

Tipoff is set for Noon ET on Sunday from Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill., for a game that will be televised on CBS.

Iowa and Northwestern met in Iowa City on Dec. 29, and the Hawkeyes won 87-72 as Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick and Luka Garza combined for 61 points. The big difference in that game came at the line, as Iowa made 20-of-25 free throws while Northwestern was 9-of-12.

Iowa has won five straight in the series and 12 of 15, and overall, the Hawkeyes lead the Wildcats, 120-60.

Give Garza The Ball

Iowa is 9-4 ATS this season, and the over is 9-4 in their 13 games as well. They rank third in the nation at 91.9 points per game and rank in the top 25 in rebounds (39.1 rebounds per game) and three-point shooting (39.3%).

Iowa has won four games in a row since losing in overtime at Minnesota on Christmas. The offense has accounted for at least 86 points in 11 of 13 games this season.

Garza leads the nation in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game, and he’s added 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 62.7% from the field and 48.9% from beyond the arc. Northwestern held him to 18 points, his second-lowest tally on the season, in the December matchup as Garza made just 6-of-14 field goal attempts.

Iowa complements Garza with Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp at guard, and both had great games last time out. In the revenge win against Minnesota last Sunday, Wieskamp scored 20 points while Bohannon added 19 to Garza’s 33.

On the season, Wieskamp averages 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds, while Bohannon averages 10.5 points per game.

Guard the Three

The Wildcats are 5-5 ATS this season, and the over is 6-4 in their 10 games. The offense ranks 30th in the nation beyond the arc at 38.9%, but the defense has let down Chris Collins’ squad on the season. Northwestern ranks below 170th in points allowed (70.0 points per game), three-point defense (33.1%) and rebounds per game (33.1).

Northwestern pulled off a couple of big home wins in December as it beat then-No. 4 Michigan State and then-No. 23 Ohio State to start conference play 3-0. But over the last four outings, the Wildcats have lost by 15, 19, 25 and 10 to Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State, respectively.

With Wisconsin on the horizon Wednesday, the game against Iowa is the sixth of seven straight against Top 25 teams.

The Wildcats kept it close on Iowa until a technical foul and an 11-2 Hawkeyes run broke the game open from 65-60 to 76-62. Pete Nance had 21 points in the game, while Chase Audige added 14.

Iowa held point guard Boo Buie to 1-of-8 shooting, including 0-for-4 from deep, and just two points. On the season, Miller Kopp leads the Wildcats with 14.9 points per game, while Audige scores 12.9 points per game, and Nance adds 11.5 points per game.

Betting Line and Analysis

The Hawkeyes are nine-point favorites on the road, and the total is set at 157.5.

Both teams made 11 three-pointers last time they met, and if Northwestern wants to pull the upset this time around, it needs to guard better at the perimeter. The problem with Iowa is that when you guard the perimeter, you leave the best center in the country one-on-one down low.

Look for Iowa to pound it inside and let Garza go to work early and often as the Hawkeyes do what they do to get to 90 points and challenge the hosts to keep up.

Free Pick: Over 157.5 points (-110)

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