Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Indiana snapped a three game losing streak and picked up its second conference road win on Saturday night with a 61-56 triumph over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Here’s a look at five takeways from the win over the Wildcats:

· Indiana closed the deal on the road: After IU held second half leads in earlier conference road losses at Michigan State, Nebraska and Minnesota, it was fair to wonder if the Hoosiers would win again away from Assembly Hall this season. And as Northwestern trimmed a 12-point IU lead all the way down to four with 2:21 to play, it looked as if the Hoosiers may let another opportunity for a win slip away.

But rather than just trying to hold on, Indiana took control late and made the plays necessary to win the game. It started with Noah Vonleh finding a cutting Troy Williams on the baseline to make the lead back to six with 1:59 to play. And then came the dagger: A 3-pointer by Will Sheehey with 52 seconds remaining to make the lead eight and put the game away for good.

“Really to win a close game, it means a lot for our team,” Sheehey said. “It means we’re progressing.”

· A balanced offense: Rather than relying on a big night from Yogi Ferrell, who came into Saturday averaging 21 points in IU’s four previous conference wins, the Hoosiers hurt Northwestern in a variety of ways as four players finished in double figures.

Ferrell, Sheehey, Williams and Vonleh each had 12 points, but it was the different ways in which they scored that made things difficult for Northwestern to defend.

Ferrell hit a timely 3-pointer to push the lead to nine with 8:43 to play and also mixed in a few difficult pull-up jump shots. Sheehey found holes in the middle of the zone and knocked in consecutive jumpers to push the lead to 10 with 6:18 to play. Williams, as Sheehey put it, was “flying around and being athletic” and finished several plays emphatically. And Vonleh gave Alex Olah problems out on the perimeter by putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket.

The result was a strong offensive performance that ended with an effective field goal percentage of 51 and 1.10 points per possession.

· A low turnover night: Turnovers are a major reason that Indiana is sitting at just 15-11 overall this season, but for a night, the mistakes that have plagued the Hoosiers all season disappeared.

Indiana posted a season low in both turnovers (7) and turnover percentage (12.7). So what was different?

“We fed the post, we played inside-out, we didn’t try to throw home run passes,” Crean said. “These guys know if we get good looks and if we get a chance to get on that board and if we get to that foul line, we can be pretty good.”

· Indiana won at Northwestern’s pace because it had better movement: The Wildcats have been shortening games all season by design and Saturday was no different. It tied the Michigan game for the lowest possession game Indiana has played all season at 55, but the pace wasn’t a deterrent for the Hoosiers.

As much as Indiana tried to run early in the season, the Hoosiers have proven to be more successful in Big Ten play when forced to execute in the halfcourt rather than trying to run when it isn’t there.

Indiana had good ball movement and ball reversals on Saturday, something it didn’t have in the first meeting in Bloomington. That allowed the Hoosiers to come up with much cleaner looks and connect on 55.6 percent of its 2s, up significantly from the 26.2 percent mark against the Wildcats on Jan. 18.

· This win is a positive in an otherwise tough 11-day stretch: Not much went right for Indiana over the 10 days leading up to Saturday’s win, but the Hoosiers showing resolve and bouncing back exemplifies some growth took place.

Whether it’s a springboard to a strong finish for the final five conference games remains to be seen, but the Hoosiers needed this win to stop the negative momentum.

“The fact that we got off to a good start in the second half was a real maturity point for us,” Crean said. “We’re working hard to build on it.”

  • banarish

    Maybe it was my imagination, but the Hoosiers seemed to be making an effort to communicate a little more than normal for this season. I noticed Hollowell & Williams directing traffic a few times; Jeremy especially seemed more engaged with his teammates than he usually tends to be.

  • http://assemblycall.com/ The Assembly Call

    I noted this as well. Seeing more little things with Jeremy, like his head on a swivel when he’s defending someone off the ball. It’s helping him be in better help position and not get caught out of position with his own man. That, the turnovers being reduced, more easy looks at the basket … lots of positives to take from tonight that are hopefully building blocks for improved play down the stretch.

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    I was very impressed right before halftime. CTC took a timeout, set up a nice play, and the Hoosiers scored right before halftime. Much better than failing to block out on a free throw and letting the other team score at halftime. Those types of plays are momentum changers.

  • Gregory Spera

    “We fed the post, we played inside-out…”
    “Indiana had good ball movement and ball reversals…”
    And they win. Could there be a connection? Hmmmmmm…

  • Lance

    Yay IU!! Solid team play, sharper shooting, and alert coaching coalesce for a much needed win. Proud of the guys and good to see them turning the corner and living up to there potential.

    After last night’s performance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win every game to close out the season.

  • Ole Man

    Absolutely! We’ve been saying that here on ITH for a month; Coach read it; and said, “Aha!”
    (And if you believe any of that I have a bridge to sell you.)

  • Ole Man

    My only caveat of the game was the darn zone! As they mentioned in The Minute After, it wasn’t that effective this time.

    My bigger issue was using it so much for these reasons:
    It allowed NW to play at its pace
    NW had a short bench–press them and push them to get them tired (the zone allowed rest)
    Their center had two sore ankles–push him, make him work.
    Otherwise, liked the effort and results.

  • Alford Bailey

    Turnovers were the key takeaway for me. Give NW another 10 possessions via turnovers, which we’ve seen this team do many times, and we are probably talking about a different outcome.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I agree. I think we did an outstanding job but a full court press probably would’ve led to us blowing them out. Either way, nice to see the silly mistakes eliminated.

  • Benhyoung14

    You’re going to be a busy man.

  • SCHoosier

    Hollowell also went up strong for an O-board..got it and put it back in ..strong. He’s been lacking that kind of aggressive, physical play. Glad to see it happen.

  • SCHoosier

    That one ball reversal play which resulted in Gordon nailing an open 3 was nice to watch. Will need more of that to finish out the season. So how do you win a close game when you’ve shoot an awful 22% from 3 and an even worse 50% from the line? Limit TO’s..and plays stretches of good defense..that’s how. Hoosiers also hit a couple really key buckets at the end. Not giving the other team extra chances to score with our TO’s was the key.

  • boogio

    I think that after they went to man is when Northwestern’s offense improved. The hoosiers should have stayed in a zone. Otah was better in a man defense, as was Demps.

  • Ole Man

    Sorry, we must have watched two different games.
    Even the ITH writers made note that the Zone was less effective this time.

  • Hardwood83

    I missed it, why was IU wearing the home jerseys?

  • InTheMtns

    Northwestern opted to wear their black uniforms instead of their whites. I missed the reason for why they chose their alternative uniform, but since they weren’t wearing their home whites, they told Indiana they could wear either their whites or reds. I think Indiana chose white because they’ve won more games in white and also because about 50% of the fans at Welsh-Ryan cheer for Indiana so it sort of pays tribute to them as being a home crowd (and maybe to mess with NU’s head).

  • WhatsUpKnight

    amazing the difference when they protect the ball. now let’s see em follow suit for the rest of the year. boy would that be nice!

  • Michael McColly

    Does Crean ever even use the press? Doesn’t seem this in his tool box. Doesn’t think they can handle the pace with TO’s. But I love the press for this very reason, push people out of that zone. I hate the zone and hated playing it in HS ages ago. And hated even more those teams who used it so well!

  • TomJameson

    NW decided to wear their road uniforms because they’ve won more on the road than at home. Their decision all together.

  • Ole Man

    Occasionally.
    With the athleticism of the recruits he is bringing in, I would love to see it being utilized more and more.

  • CreamandCrimson

    My five takeaways (I know, very original from me)
    1.I was so surprised (and pleased) to see us take care of the ball for 40 minutes. Kudos to the players and the coaching staff for staying mentally engaged in the season and for battling to get a win after a really tough 10-day stretch.
    2. It was great to see Will Sheehey nail a 3 to seal the deal.
    3. I thoroughly enjoyed the balanced offense and for the most part, our offensive possessions didn’t make me cringe. (the bar is low this season!)
    4. Troy Williams is really starting to get it. The game seems to be a bit slower for him now…he appears to understand that he can have a huge impact by just cleaning things up and finishing around the rim. With some development, he can be a really good player for us.
    5. I have no complaints about the substitution decisions, our usage of timeouts (we scored out of them, hooray!) or our gameplan…everything pretty much made sense.

    This is a tough 8-day stretch, starting off with a win at Northwestern is a good way to start it. Well done Hoosiers.

  • Rie

    Seriously though Northwestern, fix that bleacher-type seating. Not that hard/expensive to rip those out and put in seats.

  • CTHoosiers

    Or just dynamite the place. That gym is an embarassment for a CT high school, never mind an IN or IL high school. Maybe they are just trying to make Rutgers feel better so the RAC isn’t the worst facility in the B1G.

  • weasel

    I had my high school graduation there… Speaks volumes.

  • ChitwoodIN

    Just an observation regarding Stan’s free throws. It’s been bothering me because I see so much upside to this kid and love it when he’s on (even when the shot in the lane doesn’t fall, because the hard part is getting there), but his FT% kills me. Being a southpaw myself, I seem to always notice other SP’s stance/shooting motion, and it was killing me as to why Stan is only shooting 56% or less because his shot looks decent. He leg locks!!!!!! Just before the shooting motion is complete, his knees go straight…causing him to only use his upper body to force the shot, hence most are hitting the back iron. Now I’m just wondering if/when this will ever be addressed by a coach, because if it’s corrected, I could see his percentage more than likely jump by 20% or better. Just my 2.

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