Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Northwestern

  • 02/26/2017 10:05 am in

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 Bob Hammel 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.

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  • VAHoosier

    Are you dying? That’s an odd last request…

  • pcantidote

    Ha, no, I just can’t bear the thought of PU or UK winning a title.

  • Greg Pinyan

    Mark C. I really don’t agree with you about fans rooting against IU to win. If that’s true, are they really fans? As far as CTC, facts are facts. Nice guy, good recruiter, but not a great coach. CTC teams never seem to get better over the course of the season and that’s just poor coaching. And, CTC and staff don’t do a good job preparing for the teams they’re playing. The ability of a good coach is to gets things done through his players and that just hasn’t happen. You would think by now, (end of season) the emphasis would be on the learned and practiced fundamentals over the course of the season. Playing good defense, rebounding, boxing out, good passing, good ball movement, setting pics, not turning the ball over, good inbound plays, etc, etc. IU big guys at the top of the key and the other players running around like bees trying to find their hive with that easy to defend against motion offense? The IU fan base and alumni have every right to expect better.

  • I don’t disagree with you about CTC, for the most part. I was hoping he turned a corner after last season’s turnaround, because I do think he’s a good guy who cares about the players and runs a clean program, but that hope was pretty much be quashed this season.

    If you read my rant carefully, then you’ll notice I’m talking about a very specific phenomenon. Or, at least, l meant to talk about a very specific phenomenon, namely 1) “fans” who only comment after losses and _only_ to attack the coach and sometimes players as well, and 2) fans who actually root against the team because they hope that will get rid of CTC.

    And note that I brought up that second point because some people have flat-out stated that it’s what they’re doing. And others pretty much say it without being so explicit. I am not talking about people who merely criticize CTC — because then I’d be talking about myself as well.

  • John D Murphy

    Well said. Thanks.

  • just a fan

    Priller wants to play, who wouldn’t, AND he can set a screen…something we see to bloody little of in CTC’s system–not to knock the coach, but that (screening) isn’t his “system”. When TP came in I watched him trying to free people for shots. So yes, I want to see him get more minutes. Rag on him if you will, but a player who wants to play team ball, reward him with more playing time. Even Yogi (in his 32 point game) was getting some screens from the giant Dirk, anyone else notice that?

  • just a fan

    One thing I’d like to give a “well done” to was JBJ’s assist to TB–that was James’s best assist in three years, one heads-up play

  • pcantidote

    No one is ragging on Priller. Sheesh. What the hell is with you people?

  • Hee hee… I knew you wouldn’t be able to help yourself. “Preach against freedom”? Seriously? Did I say people shouldn’t be able to say whatever they want (within the limits of what the owners of this site want to allow, of course)? I merely gave my opinion on the nature of certain comments — just like you did in commenting on mine.

  • pcantidote

    I agree with everything you said except for the innuendo that my view has anything to do with Priller. It doesn’t. It has everything to do with the coaching decision. It could have been Priller or anyone else that never plays.

  • kennygeorge

    pc, I thought he meant ragging on the coach, I’ve not really seen anyone rag on TP. I like to see him play as well and enjoy it whenever any of our bench guys score. It’s been a long and disappointing season, almost over and I’ll get excited for next year right after the last game.

  • Arch Puddington

    Sweet. I’ll bet it plays the William Tell Overture like a dream.

  • Lawless

    I disagree…and I’m not usually a huge supporter of Crean’s in game decisions. No one was moving or cutting (per usual with IU’s offense) and he came in and was extremely active. He set about 7 screens in the first possession and got an open shot for his teammate. Seemed like Crean was sending a message, not a great time to do it, but it obviously worked.

  • just a fan

    pcvenom–it was the sarcasm. You made it sound like all we want is for TP to free-up a scolly. Go back to your game replays sometime, see Thomas Bryant root for Priller–and Tim for Thomas. These kids pound each other every day in practice–they root for each other. And, you made light of that???

  • IdahoHoosier

    Well it is definitely about Priller. You have said before (and I love it) that you respect Priller and see him as a valued team member. I know your comments earlier were about the coaching decision, but the decision affected a human being (Tim). My point was just that, reasoning behind TC putting him in aside, Priller got into the game as a valued member of the team and the guy did just fine! We should be happy he saw the floor and did well. If you’re shocked by odd substitution decisions from TC at this point… I can’t help you, haha.

  • David Schwind

    “Indiana basketball” is still being played, beppecolo, it’s just called “Butler basketball” now.

  • beppecolo


  • pcantidote

    I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you quote exactly what I said that you are taking issue with?

  • pcantidote

    So then I guess you are in the camp that says that Crean would have put Priller in the game with 5 minutes left down 6 even if we were 12-4 in the B1G competing for the title?

  • pcantidote

    I just think it is pretty easy to separate the two — questioning the substitution decision (which was an outlier even in the world of CTC substitutions), and how we feel about Priller getting in the game. Again, why now? Why didn’t Priller see the floor in the 3OT PSU game? Why not in any other game? Why not until crunch time of this game? There is a larger story.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Slightly off topic, but I noticed that RJ’s +/- rating of -9 in the first half was mentioned above. I am a big stats geek, but this stat has to be one of the worst…at least for the players that play significant minutes.

    Basketball is a team sport. A player can play well, but still have a – ranking, because his team played poorly. The only players that it really makes any sense for are bench players (Green comes immediately to mind), but even then, how the team plays with one particular player on the floor for a 4 minute stretch is still likely more of a measure of how those 5 guys played together more than how that one player played.

    Not a worthless stat, but it’s about as close to one as we have.

  • Lawless

    Not sure how that puts me in a camp of imaginary situations, but when everyone else turns it over 25% of the time or shoots a 3 off the dribble weave from 25 feet out, why the hell not?!

  • Fifer39

    I would’ve thought it becomes more relevant as a statistic for the guys that play significant minutes precisely because it’s less likely that it reflects the performance of a particular rotation. Agree it’s not a stat that’s overly reliable on an individual player level however. I’d prefer to see it for specific line ups when I think it would become a lot more meaningful.

  • pcantidote

    Ok, continue to ignore the glaring peculiarity of this if you so choose.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I think in this case you’re overthinking it. There may be a larger story but does it matter? No matter WHY Priller got in the game, he did. And he did well.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Yes, launch a full scale investigation on why CTC put a rarely used player into the game! How deep does this thing go? We must find the truth!

  • John D Murphy

    On #2 above. Intellectually, I would certainly trade losing out the season in blow-out fashion to be rid of CTC but I can’t actually root against IU.

  • John D Murphy

    Definitely has to be taken with context or over a stretch of games. I usually look to see if one of the starters is significantly different than the others.

  • pcantidote

    In case you haven’t noticed, this site is all about getting into the details of the program.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Or speculating needlessly. More power to you.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Thats a great idea! Rotational +/- would be far more telling than individual.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Good point. If we see that three starters are about the same and the other two are considerably different either way, that gives a little indication of quality of minutes. Still, too many variables in that stat for me to love it.

    I really like Fifer’s suggestion of giving a +/- rating to the rotation as a whole. That is a great idea that I wish I had came up with first!!