You could call it hot shooting by Northwestern. Or you could call it poor defense by Indiana. Maybe it was a little bit of both on Super Bowl Sunday in Welsh-Ryan Arena.
But when the dust settled, Indiana looked nothing like the team that had just taken Illinois and Purdue to the wire in a pair of hard-fought losses.
And Northwestern, which inched closer to the .500 mark in conference play, looked like a team poised to work its way back into the NCAA Tournament conversation with a convincing 78-61 win over the Hoosiers.
“We just don’t have a toughness about us that’s there everyday,” Indiana coach Tom Crean told Don Fisher on the postgame radio show. “We didn’t come with a street fight mentality at the beginning of the game at all.”
The Wildcats (16-8, 5-6 Big Ten) jumped out to a 10-2 lead, hit 10 of 25 from behind the 3-point line, shot 52 percent from the field and were never really challenged by Indiana.
All five starters for Bill Carmody’s team, which had 21 assists and just 10 turnovers, scored in double figures, led by 16 from John Shurna. The 6-8 sophomore hit five 3-pointers and had six assists, five rebounds and three blocks. Luka Mirkovic added 14 points and Jeremy Nash had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We did not come out with the mentality that we were going to get into these guys,” Crean said. “The bottom line was that we had to defend the 3-point line. We had to pressure up, they’ve shot 100 more three’s than us. There’s a reason for that. We did not have the fight in us at the beginning that you need to get started and then you’re playing in an uphill battle the entire game.”
The one bright spot for Indiana (9-13, 3-7) was Verdell Jones. The sophomore guard turned in his best scoring effort yet as a Hoosier with 28 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Jones hit 12-of-13 free throws for his seventh game of 20+ points this season.
“He’s continued to get better. We’ve got to continue to find different ways to get him the ball,” Crean said. “Verdell is certainly getting a lot of things done.”
The Hoosiers had a season-low eight turnovers, but shot just 35 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 20 in the second half.
Up next: Ohio State at Assembly Hall on Wednesday. The 6:30 tip will be shown on the Big Ten Network.
Note: The Minute After will be a bit later than usual as Ryan attended today’s game.