There are three teams remaining in the Big Ten without a conference win. That will change today when Indiana (9-7, 0-3) travels to Evanston to take on Northwestern (9-4, 0-3) in a battle of winless squads in league play at 7:00 P.M. on the Big Ten Network.
Indiana has dropped its first three conference games of the season to Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota. Last time out, the Hoosiers battled the Golden Gophers hard on the road but came up short after a cold-shooting second half at Williams Arena.
Northwestern dropped all three of its conference losses to ranked opponents, No. 11 Purdue, No. 19 Michigan State and No. 25 Illinois earlier this week. The Wildcats were beaten up badly by the Fighting Illini in the first half of that game and never recovered on their way to a fourth loss in five games after starting the season 8-0.
Keys to the game after the jump.
When Indiana Has The Ball
Christian Watford must start scoring in conference play for the Hoosiers. Despite leading Indiana in scoring on the season, Watford was held to three points against Penn State and four against Minnesota. His team needs him to start contributing consistently in Big Ten play to have a chance to dig out of its early 0-3 hole.
- The Hoosiers got big contributions off the bench from Maurice Creek and Victor Oladipo against Minnesota. If that pair can play well again, it'll be a big boost for the Hoosier offense, especially if Watford finds a way to get back on track.
When Northwestern Has The Ball
John Shurna has been severely limited by a bum ankle the last four games and it has killed Northwestern's offense. The Wildcats need to get him healthy quickly...like, today to have much of a chance moving forward, let alone against Indiana.
- Keep an eye on Michael Thompson's contributions. If he can step up a little bit, it can limit the hit the Northwestern offense takes without Shurna at full strength.
This game really comes down to what the star players on both teams can contribute. If either Shurna for Northwestern or Watford for Indiana is off, it'll be tough for their teams to win. If they're both off, though, it looks like Indiana is a deeper team and will probably be able to sustain the loss of contribution from its big gun better.