It was a matchup between teams on opposite ends of the streak spectrum: one team coming off back-to-back conference losses and the other on an emphatic 11-game win streak.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the hot team won.
Paced by excellent shooting and balanced offense that saw eight players score seven or more points, the No. 25 Indiana Hoosiers (17-3, 7-0 B1G) decimated the Northwestern Wildcats (15-6, 3-5 B1G) 89-57.
Indiana won the opening tip and scored the game’s first points. Northwestern never recovered, and Indiana led for quite literally the entire game.
Northwestern is a team that must shoot well to win games. Today, the Hoosiers beat the ‘Cats at their own game. Indiana shot 52.6 percent from the floor, and nailed three-pointers at a 46.4 percent clip. The Hoosiers were also a lethal 80 percent from the foul line.
The ‘Cats didn’t finish with horrible shooting numbers, but they were nowhere near good enough to keep pace in a game where Indiana was given numerous wide-open looks and capitalized on its opportunities.
The Wildcats shot 45.5 percent from the floor (they average 46 percent), as well as 33.3 percent from beyond the arc (they average 35 percent).
But Indiana simply dominated in all facets of the game, winning the rebound battle 40-23. Northwestern was awarded only eight foul shots, and made only two. Indiana generated far more assists and fewer turnovers, and scored more points off of turnovers. Indiana had 14 second chance points; Northwestern had zero.
The Wildcats were unable to claw themselves out of their early deficit largely due to the struggles of their most reliable offensive performer, Bryant McIntosh. The sophomore finished with just four points on 2-for-12 shooting, by far his worst shooting percentage of the season. McIntosh stayed relevant by leading the team in rebounds and assists, but without his scoring, Northwestern never had much of a chance.
In addition to McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Sanjay Lumpkin were virtually invisible; despite them both being on the floor for at least 17 minutes, neither managed a single point. But there were two bright spots for the ‘Cats: after combining for just six points last time out against Maryland, Tre Demps and Alex Olah scored 36 of their team’s 57 against Indiana. That’s 63 percent of the team’s offense running through two players. The only other player to score more than five points was freshman Dererk Pardon, who put up nine.
Indiana’s team performance could not have been more different. Yogi Ferrell lived up to his star billing with 17 points on 54 percent shooting along with six assists and three boards, but the Hoosiers spread the ball around extremely well, getting seemingly everybody involved. 11 IU players recorded a point. Five recorded at least nine. Seven players hit a three-pointer. Indiana’s starters accounted for just under 60 percent of its offense. That’s balance exemplified.
The path to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in Northwestern men's basketball history remains fraught with peril, with a home date with Michigan State and a trip to Iowa, both ranked teams, next on the docket. For Northwestern to have a chance to salvage its season and make some history in the process, it needs to be patient and stop forcing bad shots. And that starts with playing defense. It remains to be seen if they can apply anything from their humiliation today to the games remaining on the schedule. This team has the potential to be good, but has yet to fully realize it.