With the World Series trophy set to make an appearance Sunday night, Northwestern was reminded of the drought they are trying to break this year, before taking on Indiana. Already 6-2 in the Big Ten, the Wildcats had the opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat going into the second half of conference play. Not only would a win over Indiana put them in sole possession of 3rd place after Purdue lost earlier in the day, but it would prevent Indiana from pulling within one game of them in the Big Ten.
• As usual, Chris Collins’ team would start with McIntosh, Lindsey, Law, Lumpkin, and Pardon.
• After a rough 10 days, which resulted in OG Anunoby being out for the season and top-scorer James Blackmon out indefinitely, Tom Crean’s lineup had a new look. Crean went with: Newkirk, Green, Johnson, Bryant, and Morgan.
In front of an energetic sold-out crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena (an environment BTN announcers acknowledged multiple times), Indiana tried reduce the home court factor by getting off to a 10-1 start. IU controlled the tempo for the first five minutes and really limited Northwestern’s shot quality.
From that point however, it would be Northwestern’s night in Evanston. In less than three minutes, NU had gone on a 7-0 run to pull within two of the Hoosiers. After finally tying the game at 12 points apiece, halfway through the 1st half, Northwestern scored nine straight to go up 21-12 with over seven minutes left.
After some early foul trouble from each team’s big men, Northwestern and IU put in Benson and Davis respectively to battle things out in the post. Benson continued to frustrate the IU offense by drawing fouls and positioning himself well on defense.
Through the final minutes of the 1st half, Northwestern continued to contain IU’s offense, finishing the half up 35-23.
For Northwestern fans, the 2nd half was calm and collective, for Indiana fans, it was frustrating, and for college basketball fans in general, it must have been boring and anticlimactic. After IU started off the 2nd half with a basket to pull within 10, they would quickly forfeit one and would stay down double digits for the remainder of the 20 minutes. Despite some good 3-point shooting from Robert Johnson, IU mainly relied on drawing fouls and post points to keep Northwestern within striking range.
In the 2nd half, Northwestern clearly was trying to use up as much shot-clock as possible before running plays. Doing so enabled them to win 68-55, without much of a scare for the final 20 minutes.
What went wrong for IU? A few things:
• The Hoosiers made just 13-22 FT’s while NU was 17-21, and made almost all FT”s down the stretch.
• IU had 13 turnovers compared to NU’s 7.
• NU outrebounded IU 41-37.
• Knowing he would have to step up, Thomas Bryant did a good job for IU, scoring 23 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and putting Northwestern’s big men in foul trouble.
• Despite being 4-6 from 3-point range, Johnson was 0-7 from inside the arc for IU.
• The harshest stat though? IU was just 32.1% from the field, with no other players scoring more than six points. NU was only 41.1%, but still significantly better than the Hoosiers.
• After an abysmal start, Scottie Lindsey kept fighting to finish 6-14 from the field, with 12 points.
• Bryant McIntosh turned in a fantastic performance for NU, scoring 21 and dropping eight dimes in the process.
• Once again, Sanjay Lumpkin was a pleasant surprise on offense, scoring 15 points for the ‘Cats, drawing fouls and making 6-7 FT’s.
• Only going 2-12 from the field, Vic Law still scored nine points and grabbed 12 rebounds to contribute to the Wildcats.
Final notes: While some may say that this win comes with an asterisk due to Indiana’s injury troubles, it really doesn’t matter for Northwestern. With 7 conference wins by the end of January, Northwestern’s March mindset will only get stronger. The crowd at Welsh-Ryan arena was fantastic Sunday night, and it was clear that NU fans are buying into this team.
Northwestern will look to extend their conference win streak Wednesday night as they visit Purdue. IU will host Penn state Wednesday night as well, in a must-win game.