Indiana finds its rhythm, notches second road win of the season

  • 02/23/2014 9:32 am in

022314jjcThis was exactly what Indiana needed.

On the heels of a wild ten days — from the Penn State and Purdue losses to the arrest of sophomore Hanner Mosquera-Perea to the collapse of a metal beam at Assembly Hall which postponed Tuesday’s scheduled game against Iowa — Saturday night’s game at Northwestern gave the Hoosiers a chance to clean the slate heading into a six-game in 15-day final stretch to the season.

And the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8) did just that in their 61-56 victory over the Wildcats (12-16, 5-10) in Evanston, only their second road win this season.

“That’s what makes this league so hard but it’s also what makes every win so gratifying,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It’s what makes every win so incredibly — not just valuable in standings and things — but just precious because they’re so hard to come by. Especially when you go on the road.”

This was an Indiana team that, before Saturday night’s game, had blown double digit leads in three of its past five games. This was an Indiana team that lost four of its past five and had little going for it. None of that mattered on Saturday, though.

Against a Northwestern squad that only one month earlier baffled the Hoosiers into their worst offensive output of the season, Indiana did everything it needed to in order to succeed in their second matchup.

From the start, the Hoosiers attacked the rim. Ball movement was a priority. Whereas in their first matchup with the Wildcats the Hoosiers got stagnant — to the point in which they shot 26.2 percent on 2s and 26.7 percent on 3s — the exact opposite occurred on Saturday.

The Hoosiers finished around the rim. They connected on cuts and inside-out plays. And most importantly, perhaps, they did not turn the ball over.

Indiana had only seven on the night, a season-low, compared to 10 assists. It was the first game since the 75-72 win over Wisconsin on January 14 that it had more assists than turnovers.

“Everyone just did what they do,” senior Will Sheehey said. “Troy (Williams) was flying around, being athletic. Noah (Vonleh) was making himself a presence in the lane and Yogi (Ferrell) ran the team tonight. Everyone contributed and did what they do.”

After leading at halftime by just two points, the Hoosiers broke out to start the second half — unlike many of their previous road performances this season. A 12-2 run had them leading, 44-32, with 12:35 left. And this time, Indiana withstood an eventual run and held on.

Northwestern trimmed the score to 54-50 with 2:21 on the clock, but the Hoosiers sealed the victory with a Williams baseline layup on the following possession and a Sheehey 3-pointer from the left wing to put Indiana up eight with 51 seconds to go.

“Those were big plays at crucial times, and it was fantastic for Will to make that shot,” Crean said. “He’s worked so hard, his leadership has been so good.”

“The things we needed to do happened,” he would say, later.

And recently, for Indiana, that hasn’t happened very often.

This was about as complete of a performance Indiana could have hoped for: The Hoosiers played smart, got their offense going (shooting 55.6 percent on 2s this time) and played like the better team on the floor.

With all the ups-and-downs Indiana has faced this season, Saturday’s win at Northwestern was one of those ups. Whether the Hoosiers can carry that momentum into their five remaining games this season  — with three straight games ranked opponents on slate — is yet to be determined.

But the truth of the matter is, after everything this team has been through recently, any positive momentum is important. And that’s exactly what the Hoosiers left Evanston with on Saturday.

(Photo credit: Stephen Carrera, NUSports.com)

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  • Hoosier Hall

    So glad to get a road win. I really hope we can go no worse than 4-1 in this last stretch. Winning the Big 10 tournament would be a nice early Christmas present too!

  • SCHoosier

    Except for having Howard in the game a little too long at the end..I thought TC’s subbing against NW was close to “textbook”..and very effective. Needs to be in our remaining games given the few days off and tough opponents IU has left to play..

  • jonny hoosier

    it was still northwestern. hate to state the obvious but….ya know

  • Ole Man

    Read my mind, jonny.

  • Steve Fischer

    Most of the media accounts from Illinois headlined “Depleted Northwestern squad” etc – discussing how short-handed and banged up they were.

    Yes it’s a road win but to make any noise we have to win almost all the rest of the schedule and do well in the Big Ten Tourney.

  • InTheMtns

    Yeah, you’re right, but at the same time, it was a win on the road – something we haven’t done much of this season, so it was a step in the right direction at least. Or, as Jordan said, at this point “any positive momentum is important.” As a fan, I enjoyed seeing them play well, even if it was just Northwestern. And it was fun seeing them have some fun as well.

  • deebo

    A shorthanded one at that.

  • Kyl470

    Very true, but at this point I’d take a win over anybody, anywhere.

  • HoosierFanaticFromUSI

    What’s the feeling about next week’s brutal stretch of games?

    I was only able to catch the last 5 minutes of the game last night, but most people are saying we played pretty well. However, it’s hard for me to be optimistic since the last I saw of them was the collapse against PSU and the Purdue game.

    Only 7 turnovers is great though!

  • Toms Crean

    “That’s what makes this league so hard but it’s also what makes every win so gratifying,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It’s what makes every win so incredibly — not just valuable in standings and things — but just precious because they’re so hard to come by. Especially when you go on the road.”

    Uhhhh… Coach… you are talking about Northwestern here. It’s not good that CTC needs to talk this way about Big Ten cellar dwellers. We should be better than this and expect to win every one of these games. Very disappointed in CTC’s attitude.

  • Just stop it. Even after a win, you’re finding something to complain about?

  • Ole Man

    Lots of good reasons for CTC to speak this way…..
    It’s something almost every coach does, compliment the other team in some way.
    More importantly, it sends an important, POSITIVE message to his young players and team. They recognize that they have accomplished something difficult.
    This is not a team, yet, where he should say, “Well, they took care of business (as they were expected to).”
    Yes; it was “just” NW and they were short-handed. However, they are very well coached, they had beaten us on our home court, they made a strong run near the end, and they’ve won some unexpected games this season.
    IU had not been closing games; had not won much on the road; and had not experienced anything but trauma and drama for much of the month.
    IU Earned this victory under difficult circumstances.
    Maybe their inconsistency rears its head in the next game and we go “Ugh” again.
    But I clearly understood CTC’s message on this one.

  • KmanCRK

    Always complaining. It would probably suit you for him to say “we were actually already focused on Wisky since this teams sucks historically.” Then we overlook a NW team that has a few big wins and lose. Then you’re killing Crean for not getting his guys ready to play.

  • KmanCRK

    This is our toughest stretch of the season coming up. If we can take care of the ball we always have a chance the way this team plays D and rebounds. But this team hasn’t shown the ability to take care of the ball with consistency. Let’s hope this changes and our ability to take care of the rock sticks with us throughout the week.

  • ForeverIU

    NW also beat Wisky and Minny on their home courts, so maybe we can learn something from NW there, just as they might have learned from us.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    considering how badly we played em the first time, coupled with the low to’s, i’d call this a solid win regardless of who they are. for now, our boys are back on the upswing. let’s hope it continues.