Thoughts on a 67-59 win over the Wildcats:
First things first. Indiana is 3-0 on the road in the Big Ten. While it’s easy to pick apart the mistakes this team has made in second halves, particularly in Big Ten play, it’s important to recognize this team is 16-2 overall and 4-1 in the country’s toughest conference.
Early on, Indiana established control despite not playing its best offensively for the first 20 minutes. That’s because the Hoosiers held the Wildcats to 7-of-23 shooting from the field in the first half. Besides Reggie Hearn, Northwestern barely showed up in the first half on its way to 17 points.
Christian Watford was a big reason why Indiana was able to open up a lead of as many as nine points less than six minutes in the game. The senior from Birmingham was hot early on, scoring seven of IU’s first nine points. It seems Indiana has been looking to get Watford going early in games and today was no exception. He finished with 11 points and four boards in the first half.
Cody Zeller also picked back up the strong play he showed in the first half against Wisconsin as he pulled down eight first-half rebounds, three of the offensive variety. Victor Oladipo also had three offensive rebounds in the first half and the combined effort of Zeller and Oladipo led to the Hoosiers posting a 43.8 offensive rebounding percentage before intermission.
But with a 14-point at the half, the question looming in everybody’s mind was this: Would Indiana put Northwestern away or allow the Wildcats to claw their way back in?
It took a while to come to fruition as the Hoosiers led 45-29 with 11:09, but thanks to a 1-3-1 zone defense that Indiana couldn’t solve, Northwestern made a run. The lead dwindled all the way down to five at 47-42 at the 6:48 mark on a layup by Hearn and it became clear that Indiana would either answer the call or let this game go all the way down to the wire.
Fortunately for IU, Zeller was there to make a play, just as he did for most of the afternoon.
His layup with 6:20 to go stretched the lead back to seven and he followed that with an tip-in of a missed runner by Jordan Hulls to make the cushion nine points. Northwestern never got closer than five the rest of the way and Zeller finished with team-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Continue reading this post »