Iowa coach Steve Alford says his team faces a critical week as they prepare for Wednesday night’s game at Northwestern. The 23rd ranked Hawkeyes take a 2-3 Big Ten mark into Northwestern and finish the week this Saturday at home against Indiana. He says the team has done great things this year, but they had one bad week to start the Big Ten season and now they face “the most important week we’ve had to date.” Alford says, “This is a mental toughness week. If we want to set up February, we got to get two wins this week.” Northwestern had Iowa’s number last year. The Wildcats claimed a 77-68 victory in Iowa City and posted a 51-49 win in Evanston the final week of the regular season. Alford says how the game is played will be a key. He says they scored way to easily in Iowa City last year and he says they guarded better at home. Alford says a slow pace will favor Northwestern.Alford says the Hawkeyes aren’t sure what to expect from a Northwestern team that has battled injury and illness. Also, Wildcat center Mike Thompson was suspended for missing too many classes and sat out Saturday’s three-point loss at Penn State. Alford says they have to go in and worry about doing what they do and not worry about who’s in the lineup for Northwestern. Northwestern is 1-4 in the Big Ten and 8-9 overall and coach Bill Carmody says their problem areas change from game to game. He says they didn’t have turnovers against Penn State, but got outrebounded. Carmodoy says the Hawkeyes are vastly improved over last season. He says they have the same team back, but are playing much better, while his team is pretty much the same, but is not playing as well.