Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Northwestern
Indiana’s five-game losing streak is over. The Hoosiers found a way to win on Saturday night as they made just enough plays to edge Northwestern, 63-62, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Wildcats:
· A close game goes Indiana’s way: After narrow road losses at Minnesota and Iowa, Indiana flipped the script in a close game on Saturday night.
The Hoosiers had control in both Minneapolis and Iowa City, but let comfortable leads disappear down the stretch. Northwestern was in great position – leading by seven with 1:33 to play – but couldn’t make one more play to close the deal.
Indiana took advantage by getting stops defensively and scoring on its final three possessions. In a game dominated by runs, the 8-0 spurt by the Hoosiers in the game’s final minutes was the difference.
“We always stick with it,” James Blackmon Jr. said. “We know that we’re right there. The games we’ve lost have come down to one or two possessions just like tonight. So it was good to get this one.”
· Guards make plays in final minutes: It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. IU’s junior guards struggled during IU’s five-game skid, but with Saturday’s game on the line, both delivered winning plays.
Let’s start with Johnson, who was -9 in 12 first half minutes. The Richmond native’s layup with 1:17 remaining brought Indiana to within five at 62-57. On the next possession, Johnson found Blackmon Jr. in stride for a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two at 62-60.
And after both players held their ground defensively on Northwestern’s next possession, Blackmon Jr. grabbed a rebound and brought the ball length of the floor and found Thomas Bryant for the game winner.
“I thought James was going to take the shot, so I was really getting ready for rebounding position. I knew I could get on the backside. He was up and watching,” Bryant explained. “I was going the backside. And when James did a hesitation, came through, I was like oh, it’s open right here. So I’m just going to keep wedging him out and just be on that backside, which he dumped it off to me and it was a good pass.”
· Turnovers almost a catastrophe once again: A glance at the turnover numbers tells this story: Indiana was fortunate to win.
The Hoosiers turned it over 16 times for a turnover percentage of 24.8. Northwestern turned IU’s 16 mishaps into 16 points. It could have been much worse, but Northwestern shot just 39 percent from the field.
Through 16 conference games, Indiana has been outscored by 85 points off of turnovers. On Saturday, the deficit was 13.
· This was Indiana’s second best defensive game in Big Ten play: The Hoosiers didn’t have a great night offensively, but won because of defense.
Northwestern managed just .96 points per possession, the second lowest points per possession output for a conference opponent this season. Only Rutgers, which scored .77 points per trip, scored fewer.
The Wildcats shot just 22.2 percent on 3s (4-of-18) and under 50 percent on 2s (19-of-41).
“Very proud of the resiliency of this group,” Tom Crean said postgame. “Certainly numerous times they could have turned it in. And they never did.”
· Green’s 70-foot shot might have been the longest in Assembly Hall history: For the second time this season, Devonte Green connected from halfcourt or beyond.
Saturday’s shot might have been the longest shot ever made in Assembly Hall history. Longtime Bloomington Herald-Times sportswriter told me at halftime that he couldn’t recall a longer shot ever being made in the building’s 45-year history.
Green’s shot, which we’ve estimated at 70 feet, gave the Hoosiers a 36-26 halftime lead and capped off a 22-0 run.
Video: Collin Hartman’s senior speech
Indiana’s lone senior, Collin Hartman, gave a spirited speech following Indiana’s 63-62 win over Northwestern on Saturday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The 10-minute speech from the Cathedral product ended with a marriage proposal by Hartman to his longtime girlfriend. You can watch the entire speech below, via the HoosierSportsReport:
And here’s the video tribute for Hartman that was played prior to his speech:
In a season chock full of twists and turns, Saturday’s home finale provided the most unbelievable chapter yet.
And unlike most of the recent chapters of the 2016-17 IU basketball season, it had a happy ending.
The game had all of the same ingredients we’ve come to expect from the Hoosiers. Spurts of brilliance and spectacular individual feats were often canceled out by extended sequences of mind-boggling mistakes and turnovers, poor communication and missed defensive rotations.
As a result, the Hoosiers found their backs to the wall. But this time, they delivered. In fact, they did so twice.
The first time the Hoosiers found themselves struggling for answers came less than six minutes into the game.
Yet another slow start placed them in an all too familiar position, down 26-14 with 5:30 still left in the opening frame and forced to call a timeout.
But the Hoosiers responded to end the half, scoring the next 22 points to head to the locker room with a 10-point advantage.
The boost to the scoreboard was obvious, less so was the heightening of morale and confidence that Indiana has been missing since the slide began.
Before the Hoosier’s put up 22 unanswered, the only player with much in the way of enthusiasm was Thomas Bryant.
Bryant was his usual self, dancing on the bench and pumping his fist when teammates scored.
It wasn’t until the start of Indiana’s run began that Bryant’s passion became infectious, with Devonte Green becoming the first Hoosier to show symptoms.
With just over five minutes left in the half, Green received a pass from Josh Newkirk on the right wing. After using a pump fake to put Isiah Brown out of position, Green calmly nailed a step-back three (it was initially ruled a two before being changed upon review).
Two possessions later and with the Hoosiers still down eight, Green grabbed a Bryant McIntosh miss. Green proceeded to dribble behind the back, strut down the open court, and crossover McIntosh before feeding Bryant for an and-1.
On the following possession, Green found a trailing Newkirk, who knocked down a three of his own. As the two high-fived, a smile was evident on each of their faces.
It wasn’t long before James Blackmon Jr. and Juwan Morgan came to life as well, as each made key plays during the stretch.
Before long, Indiana was in complete control. Northwestern had the chance for one final shot to regain momentum before the break. But a Vic Law miss was rebounded by Green just inside the free throw line with under two seconds to go.
From there, Green took one dribble and threw up a 70-foot heave. Somehow, the shot found its way into the basket.
Green stood at center court, surrounded and embraced by teammates.
Thomas Bryant let out a yelp. Morgan gave him a chest bump. Freddie McSwain leaped in jubilation. De’Ron Davis smacked Green’s hips as if he was a boxing trainer preparing him for a fight.
The entire team had managed to encapsulate the spirit of Thomas Bryant.
“(Devonte) brought a lot of confidence to the game,” Blackmon told reporters after the game. “He made confident plays and big plays and it got us going.”
When the second half began, the infectious energy had vanished.
In its place, Indiana’s old demons once again returned.
During the opening 10:03 of the final half, Northwestern outscored Indiana 23-6. Over that span, the Hoosiers committed four turnovers, settled for contested shots, and struggled to defend. When Indiana did contest Northwestern shots during that stretch, they almost always ended up fouling. Northwestern was only 12-for-18 from the charity stripe for the night but went 9-for-10 over that stretch.
The Hoosiers were able to stop the bleeding but struggled to put a dent into the lead they had allowed Northwestern to retake.
Time was beginning to run out.
Moments after the final media timeout, Bryant McIntosh banked in a 3-pointer. The game clock read 3:11 and the Hoosiers were down 61-53.
Fans started heading for the exits.
A sixth straight was defeat was staring Indiana in the face. Unless they could find a way to rekindle the same energy they mustered at the end of the first half, the season would continue plummeting downhill.
Somehow, the Hoosiers found a spark, outscoring Northwestern 10-1 throughout the final stretch.
Although Indiana’s first made field goal over the span didn’t come until 93 seconds remained, the defensive intensity increased significantly.
Northwestern came close to knocking down a shot down the stretch, but for once, the Basketball Gods chose to side with Indiana.
This was no more evident than the final Indiana offensive possession of the game.
The Hoosiers were trailing by two and just nine seconds remained on the clock when Blackmon grabbed the rebound off a McIntosh layup attempt.
Coach Tom Crean appeared to want a timeout, but Blackmon had other ideas.
“I heard the bench calling timeout, but I was already in my move so I just went with it and tried to be confident,” Blackmon said.
Personifying the same spirit that the team took on at the end of the first half, Blackmon hurried up the floor.
When he got to the low block, Blackmon was double teamed, leaving Thomas Bryant open right under the basket.
Blackmon, with nowhere to go, found Bryant with a bounce pass across the paint. Bryant then threw down the game-tying dunk while being fouled in the process.
“I saw two or three (Northwestern players) coming at me, so I knew (Bryant) was going to be at the right spot and that’s what we work on,” Blackmon said. “He wedged it and it was a perfect play.
The ensuing free throw from Bryant was an adventure in itself.
After Northwestern took a timeout in an attempt to ice the big man, Bryant, a 73 percent shooter from the stripe on the year, made his way to the line.
The normally hyperactive Bryant appeared calm, at least on the outside.
The shot went up, hit the back iron and then the top of the backboard. Not the literal top of the backboard, the top of the front facing side of the backboard (go ahead and watch the replay).
Somehow, someway, the way the ball bounced off the backboard placed it into the nylon.
How? I have absolutely no idea.
“To be honest, Coach just told me to stay straight up and shoot it just like it was normal,” Bryant told BTNs Jon Crispin immediately after the game. “I felt a little bit off, but I stayed with the follow through and it went in for us.”
A stroke of luck? You can certainly call it that.
But for a team that hasn’t had any in the weeks, Indiana will gladly take it.
Hartman’s wild senior night
Right after Bryant’s free throw found its way into the net, BTN switched over to a shot of Hartman.
A smile crept over his face as he pumped his fist on the bench. It looked to be an expression of both joy and relief. He knew what came next, even if most in attendance didn’t have a clue.
When it was time for the team’s lone senior to give his speech, the majority of the crowd had already funneled out.
Those that remained were treated to one of the wildest senior night speeches in recent memory.
The entire speech is available here and is well worth your time, but the part that will be remembered most came at the tail end.
Collin Hartman just proposed to his girlfriend and she said yes. That's doing senior night right. Video below. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Kr2LMKXrNV
Indiana looked finished. And the Assembly Hall faithful headed for the exits. The Hoosiers trailed Northwestern 62-55 with 1:33 to play. A sixth straight loss looked like a near certainty.
But Indiana kept plugging away.
Robert Johnson hit a layup with 1:17 to play. Then Johnson found James Blackmon Jr. for a 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go and the Hoosiers took a timeout to set up defensively.
On the ensuing possession, Bryant McIntosh missed a layup and Blackmon Jr. grabbed the rebound. The junior guard went the length of the floor and found Thomas Bryant underneath the basket with 2.6 seconds to play for a dunk and a foul on Scottie Lindsey. That tied the game for the Hoosiers. Northwestern took a timeout to try and ice Bryant.
But it didn’t work.
Bryant got a favorable bounce to lift Indiana to a 63-62 lead. And as McIntosh’s desperation heave at the buzzer missed, the comeback was complete. The losing streak is over.
This was a game of runs and one that Indiana was fortunate to win after how it began the second half.
The Hoosiers led 36-26 at halftime thanks to a 21-0 run over the final 5:30 of the first half. That run was capped off by a Devonte Green 70-foot shot at the buzzer that gave the crowd, which was quiet for a good part of the first half, a ton of energy.
But Northwestern didn’t go away easily.
The Wildcats reclaimed the lead on a pair of free throws by Vic Law at the 13:45 mark. And as the lead grew to eight with 3:11 to play, it looked as if Northwestern might win going away. But the Wildcats, who were looking to punch their NCAA tournament ticket with their 10th conference win, simply couldn’t finish off Indiana. The celebration in Evanston will have to wait.
Indiana wasn’t great offensively, but the Hoosiers were good enough. The Hoosiers splashed in 8 of their 24 attempts from deep and won despite a turnover percentage of 24.8. Northwestern turned 16 Hoosier mishaps into 16 points.
Defensively, Indiana limited Northwestern to .96 points per possession, just the fourth time the Hoosiers have held a Big Ten opponent under one point per trip this season.
Only two Indiana players finished in double figures as Blackmon Jr. finished with 13 points and Bryant added 11. Josh Newkirk and Juwan Morgan both added nine and Green, who was +19 in the first half, had eight. It was a balanced effort.
Johnson also deserves a mention for his play late as he scored or assisted on two of IU’s final three baskets.
It wasn’t pretty, but at this point, Indiana just needed a win.
Mired in a tailspin, it was fair to wonder if the Hoosiers would win again if they’d dropped this contest. Indiana is still probably looking at a Wednesday Big Ten tournament appearance, but another win, either at Purdue or Ohio State, could change that.
Up next? A trip to Purdue on Tuesday to face a Boilermaker team desperate for a win following a Saturday beatdown at Michigan. We’re hitting the stretch run of the 2016-17 season and while the Hoosiers aren’t making the NCAA tournament without a run in Washington D.C., Indiana’s losing streak is finally over.
At the Buzzer: Indiana 63, Northwestern 62
Quick thoughts on a 63-62 win over Northwestern:
How it happened: Things looked bleak early on for Indiana. Northwestern, looking to solidify an NCAA tournament berth for the first time in program history, raced out to a 26-14 lead at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Indiana faithful grew restless and boos were audible. But the Hoosiers didn’t quit. Over the last 5:01 of the first half, Indiana scored 22 points. Northwestern didn’t score. The run was capped off by a Devonte Green heave from about 70 feet out to send Indiana into halftime with a 36-26 lead. But the prosperity for the Hoosiers was short lived. It took just four second half minutes for Northwestern to trim the IU lead to four. By the 13:45 mark, the Wildcats had the lead back. And it looked like Northwestern was going to win going away. But Indiana never gave in. And the Hoosiers closed the game on a 8-0 run, punctuated by a Thomas Bryant 3-point play with 2.6 seconds left on a nifty pass from James Blackmon Jr. The win improved IU to 16-13 overall and 6-10 in Big Ten play.
Standout performer: Green scored eight points and Indiana was +19 in the 12 minutes he was on the floor in the first half. He finished with eight points, four rebounds, two steals, two assists, two turnovers and a block.
Statistic that stands out: Indiana had two major runs in this game. The Hoosiers had a 22-0 spurt to end the first half and an 8-0 run to finish off the win.
Final individual stats:
Final tempo-free stats:
With uncertain future, Hartman prepares for senior night
Collin Hartman, Indiana’s lone senior, will be honored on Saturday evening following the regular season home finale against Northwestern.
But this wasn’t the senior night Hartman envisioned before workouts began last fall.
The Cathedral product hasn’t played a single possession this season after suffering a right knee injury during a workout in late September that required surgery.
During his rehab, Hartman has grown into a coaching role on the sidelines and offers a veteran perspective on the bench despite not being able to make a difference on the floor.
“He’s like a coach out there right now,” Tom Crean said of Hartman on Friday. “He can handle a lot. There’s never been a day where I didn’t feel like he was connected in some way to what we are doing.”
With the season winding down and IU’s postseason hopes fading as the losses pile up, the natural question is: What’s next for Hartman?
As of right now, no final decision has been made for where Hartman’s plans will take him after IU. He already has a bachelor’s degree in business management and is currently enrolled in graduate school. Tom Crean said Friday that Hartman would be welcomed back for another season, but added that he’s earned the right to make his own decision on his future.
“There’s a lot of things that go into (the decision),” Hartman explained. “How well my knee progresses, how well my body feels, other opportunities or jobs, and it’s going to take several conversations with family and the coaches, just talking to people in my life that I trust most to have my best interests at heart. After that, I’ll be able to get to the bottom of it.”
Neither Crean nor Hartman seemed too worried about the next step for the Indianapolis native.
“If he decides to continue with this next year, then well, we will have another senior day,” Crean said.
Indiana recruited Hartman for his passing ability and vision on the court, but Crean said his most impressive quality now is his toughness.
In addition to the knee injury this season, Hartman tore his left ACL after his freshman year. As a junior, he played three NCAA tournament games with a broken right wrist and averaged 5.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
“With the wrist situation last year, that’s incredible to me,” Crean said of Hartman’s performance, “It’s absolutely incredible.”
Coming back from not only one injury, but three, hasn’t been easy, Hartman admitted. But he was able to grow into a level of mental toughness he never thought possible.
“I didn’t have a lot of mental toughness coming into college,” Hartman said. “I might’ve thought I did, but I didn’t. It started to eat me up, but one of the best things that could’ve happened to me was tearing my ACL. It gave me a work ethic, a drive and a hunger to prove people wrong. It’s one of the biggest things that changed me.”
When asked about his most memorable moments at IU, Hartman recalled several moments from the 2015-16 season. Among them: the comeback win against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic, winning the Big Ten title outright at Iowa and cutting down the nets following last season’s win over Maryland in Bloomington.
“I don’t think you can fully comprehend or understand the magnitude of putting on an IU jersey,” Hartman said. “The feeling you get is something else. It’s crazy and it’ll change you, for the better or the worse. It’s been a long ride, but it’s definitely been worth it.”