The Minute After: Northwestern

  • 02/18/2024 6:21 pm in

Thoughts on a 76-72 loss to the Wildcats:

Mike Woodson still hasn’t gotten over the hump against Northwestern.

He’s now 0-4 against the Wildcats in his tenure. Northwestern remains the only Big Ten program he’s yet to defeat. The Wildcats also have three straight wins in Bloomington with today’s victory. According to the FS1 broadcast, that’s the first time Northwestern has pulled off such a feat since 1916.

After falling behind by 16 points with 6:17 to play, Indiana made a late run and got it to within three points with nine seconds to go. But Northwestern hung on with Brooks Barnhizer making 1-of-2 at the line and a late 3-point attempt from Anthony Leal missing.

Northwestern entered this game as one the best teams in the country in terms of ball security and that proved true today again. The Wildcats turned it over just three times all afternoon. They also rebounded 31 percent of their misses, which led to 12 second-chance points. Both the low turnovers and strong offensive rebounding meant the Wildcats got up 12 more field-goal attempts (65 to 53) than the Hoosiers, a big key to their win.

Another plus for Northwestern? With Boo Buie in first-half foul trouble and sitting for a long stretch, Ryan Langborg more than made up for his absence. Langborg led all first-half scorers with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He connected from both deep (2-of-4) and out of the sort of ball-screen situations that usually go to Buie. In fact, Buie didn’t even score his first basket until the 8:35 mark of the second half. He got it going a bit down the stretch, but still shot just 3-of-14 from the field, though he managed to get to 14 points thanks to six makes at the line.

Speaking of the line, Indiana again shot itself in the foot there. The Hoosiers made just 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) to Northwestern’s 22-of-28 (78.6 percent).

“A close game when you’re scrapping and scraping, you’ve got to make free throws,” Woodson said after the game.

It was a forgettable game for Malik Reneau. The sophomore fouled out with 6:23 to play and forced a lot of his offense when he was in the game. He finished 4-of-9 (nine points). As we saw against Ohio State, Indiana’s best offense coming down the home stretch of the season has been Trey Galloway creating off high ball screens.

Galloway put together a couple of strong plays late in the first half for two assists to cut Northwestern’s 11-point lead to six. Galloway also was a big part of the reason why Indiana cut Northwestern’s 16-point advantage down to three, as he continued to find teammates, whether it be for a 3-pointer or a lob to Kel’el Ware. While he didn’t score well in this one (seven points on 2-of-7 shooting), he did dish out 12 assists, a career-high.

Indiana also came out of the gate in the second half looking to run and get out more in transition, which led to easier looks on offense at times. Mackenzie Mgbako was a beneficiary in that regard. When it was all said and done, he scored a career-high 20 points (6-of-11 from the field, 5-of-8 from the line).

But in the end, Indiana found itself battling back from a double-digit deficit in both halves against an undermanned Northwestern team down Ty Berry and without a strong performance from Buie.

The Hoosiers have lost eight of 12 and are just three games over .500 (14-11). They’re barely clinging inside the KenPom top 100 at No. 98 and the site doesn’t favor them to win in their six remaining regular-season games.

Add it all up and this much seems true: Indiana just doesn’t have it this season.

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