Northwestern, coming off a closer-than-desired win at home against Iowa, traveled to Bloomington. Their high-scoring offense set the Wildcats up with a 10 point lead at the half in Bloomington. Bill Carmody's Wildcats were greatly helped by an inconsistent Indiana offense and their own offense making threes.
But, as Iowa had done in the previous game, Indiana came out swinging in the 2nd half, cutting Northwestern's lead to within a possession over and over again. While they didn't take the lead, they cut Northwestern's advantage to 3 points late in the 2nd half. They just couldn't hit a 3 to tie, Northwestern made their free throws (after struggling badly in that department against Iowa) and came out with a much-needed win.
Northwestern entered the game at 5-9 in Big Ten play. IU stood at dead last in the conference, needing something, anything, to help salvage a season in which they were swept by fellow bottom-dweller Iowa. But they didn't get that win, falling flat against a hot-shooting Northwestern team and failing to execute in the final minutes.
For Northwestern, the John Shurna-Michael Thompson connection worked wonders again; Thompson finishing with a team-high 22 points and Shurna with 19 points. G Alex Marcotullio finished with double-figures scoring for just the 3rd time this season with 11 points, and tallied 4 assists, leading his team.. Luke Mirkovic struggled from the floor, hitting just 2 of his 6 shots, but he pulled in a team-high 6 rebounds. Just two days after missing 6 of 13 free throws against Iowa, the Wildcats made 21 of their 25 foul shots. Michael Thompson hit all 11 of his free throw attempts. The Wildcats took 24 threes and got 11 of them to fall their way, a much-needed boost against an Indiana team that struggled badly from outside.
Indiana had three players score in double figures. Verdell Jones III led the team with 18 points, Jordan Hulls finished with 14 points, and Christian Watford added 11 points. Jones finished with 6 of his team's 10 assists. Tom Pritchard and Will Sheehey combined for 15 points (Pritchard with 8, Sheehey with 7) and 7 rebounds (Pritchard with 3, Sheehey with 4), but it was Derek Elston who would lead the Hoosiers in rebounds (with 11).
The Hoosiers shot very well from the floor overall but struggled badly from beyond the arc; they would make 23 of their 46 field goal attempts but convert on just 4 of 13 attempts from outside. The struggles from beyond the arc could not have happened at a worse time: when Indiana was trying to tie the game. Clank. Clank. Clank. Nothing fell Indiana's way after Jordan Hulls hit a 3 pointer with 1:15 remaining to cut Northwestern's lead to 3, 67-64. Nothing. After that shot, Indiana went 0 for 3 from the floor (with 2 missed 3 point attempts) and Northwestern was able to close out the game. At the end of the day, Bill Carmody's Wildcats pulled out a win and improved to 6-9 in Big Ten play with 3 games remaining. IU falls to 3-11 in Big Ten play.
Northwestern now faces Penn State. Can the Wildcats spoil the Nittany Lions' hopes of an NCAA berth with a win and keep their own tournament hopes alive? Indiana now faces a brutal stretch against 3 top 25 opponents, and one still-dangerous Minnesota team looking for revenge. Will they ruin the season for rival Purdue? Upend Ohio State? Sweep Minnesota?
NEXT THREE GAMES
Northwestern: vs. Penn State (February 24th), @ #10 Wisconsin (February 27th), vs. Minnesota (March 2nd, SENIOR DAY)
Indiana: vs. #11 Purdue (February 23rd), @ #2 Ohio State (February 27th), vs. #10 Wisconsin (March 3rd, SENIOR DAY)