What to Expect: Northwestern at Indiana

  • 02/16/2024 9:56 am in

Indiana will return from a week-long break when it hosts Northwestern at Assembly Hall on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats are 17-8 overall and 8-6 in Big Ten play.

Sunday’s game will tip at 3 p.m. ET on FS1:

With its NCAA tournament hopes dashed, Indiana is playing for pride and a potential spot in the NIT over the final seven regular season games.

The Hoosiers have a week to prepare for Sunday’s opponent, Northwestern, which has dominated the series between the two programs in recent seasons. Chris Collins is 3-0 against Mike Woodson, including an 84-83 win last season in Bloomington.

The Wildcats, however, have been hit with the injury bug as Ty Berry has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a meniscus injury that will require surgery. Northwestern has lost its last five Big Ten road games, including a 63-60 loss at Rutgers Thursday night.

Indiana has been no stranger to injuries this season as starting point guard Xavier Johnson remains sidelined with an arm injury. During the TV broadcast on Saturday against Purdue, announcer Gus Johnson said Johnson told him he would miss three games after Purdue and then aim for a return. That means Johnson could be back for the Wisconsin game on Feb. 27.


Northwestern’s already thin rotation is even thinner due to the absence of Berry, who averaged 11.6 points and shot 43.3 percent on 3s in 23 games.

Collins will ride his starters as much as possible the rest of the season with the hopes that the trio of Boo Buie, Brooks Barnhizer and Ryan Langborg will lead the program to a second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Current projections have the Wildcats safely in the tournament.

A 6-foot-2 fifth-year senior, Buie is Northwestern’s leading scorer and playmaker. Buie’s 19.2 points per game lead the team and he’s shooting 41.7 percent on 3s and 84.9 percent from the free throw line. He also averages 5.2 assists per game. Matching up with Buie would be a challenge even if Johnson were healthy, but it will be even more challenging without him available.

Barnhizer is a Lafayette native that Indiana and Purdue didn’t pursue who has blossomed into one of the better wings in the conference as a junior. The 6-foot-6 wing is shooting 39.5 percent on 3s in Big Ten play and 50 percent on 2s. Barnhizer is Northwestern’s leading rebounder at seven per game. He also ranks in the top 20 in the league in block and steal percentage and does a solid job of getting to the free throw line with his aggressiveness.

Langborg was a transfer portal addition from Princeton who has successfully navigated the step up in competition from the Ivy League to the Big Ten. The 6-foot-4 guard is shooting 39.8 percent on 3s for the season and 40.6 percent in conference games. He rarely turns it over and has eight games with at least four made 3-pointers.

With Berry sidelined, 6-foot-7 Nick Martinelli has stepped into the starting lineup — the Glenview, Illinois native averages 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and shoots 52.6 percent from the field.

7-footer Matthew Nicholson only gets a few offensive opportunities but finishes when he gets the ball. He’s shooting 64.7 percent from the field and has a team-high 36 blocks. Nicholson sets solid screens, knows his role and plays hard for the 22+ minutes when he’s on the floor. He’ll be essential for the Wildcats on Sunday with Indiana’s post-heavy offense.

Luke Hunger, a 6-foot-10 center from Montreal, should see some time behind Nicholson. He shoots 67.6 percent on 2s.

Two other backups to know with Berry out are sophomore Justin Mullins and freshman Jordan Clayton. The 6-foot-6 Mullins has appeared in just 10 games but played 26 minutes in Thursday’s loss at Rutgers and scored eight points. Clayton has scored just nine points all season and is 4-for-21 from the field, but has had to play spot minutes out of necessity now with Berry out for the season.


All stats in the graphic below are via KenPom.com and are for conference games only.

The Wildcats have a top-three offense in Big Ten play and a bottom-four defense.

Northwestern relies heavily on the 3-pointer, with 34.1 percent of its points coming from distance. That ranks 73rd in the country. More importantly, the Wildcats are an elite shooting team from the perimeter at 39.4 percent overall and 43.3 percent in Big Ten play. Big Ten opponents are currently shooting 31.5 percent on 3s against Indiana, the lowest mark in the league.

No team in the Big Ten takes better care of the ball than Northwestern. The Wildcats have the lowest turnover percentage (13.3) in the conference and force turnovers on 18.4 percent of opponent possessions, which is third best in the league.

Northwestern has struggled defensively in Big Ten play. Conference foes have posted an effective field goal percentage of 54.2 percent against the Wildcats, the highest in the league. Northwestern’s Big Ten opponents also have a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 48.9 percent, the highest in the conference. One of Indiana’s offensive strengths is getting to the line, but the Hoosiers are the worst free throw shooting team in the Big Ten at 63.9 percent.


The KenPom projection is Northwestern by two with a 45 percent chance of an IU victory.

The Wildcats will look to spread the floor with the ball in Buie’s hands and capable shooters on the wings looking for mistakes from the Hoosier defense. Buie is capable of picking apart defenses with his scoring or playmaking for capable shooters on the wing.

Indiana has a decided advantage in the post but will likely need to make some perimeter shots to win. Northwestern isn’t going to let Malik Reneau or Kel’el Ware play one-on-one against Barnhizer or Martinelli and Indiana’s guards are going to have to step up and make some plays when the ball comes out of the post.

While the Wildcats have struggled to finish games on the road recently, they’ve been competitive. Over its last five road losses, Northwestern has fallen twice in overtime and hasn’t lost by more than nine.

Filed to: