Coming off of a huge upset win over the No. 3 ranked Wisconsin Badgers, the Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, Big 10) were looking to pound the Northwestern men’s basketball team, solidifying their place on the upper echelon of Big Ten teams. But the Wildcats had other plans and left Assembly Hall with a 54-47 victory, their second Big Ten win.
While Indiana won the opening tip, the Wildcats controlled the pace for much of the first half. Northwestern’s Kale Abrahamson and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh each hit a three two minutes in, and stifling defense and poor shooting from the Wildcats kept the score at 3-3. After another five minutes, senior Drew Crawford, who led the ‘Cats with 17 points, nailed a floater, which gave Northwestern a lead they wouldn’t give up until 7:35 left in the game.
Crawford and Abrahamson continued to keep the pressure on Indiana, scoring a combined 15 of the Wildcats’ 22 first-half points.
On the defensive end, the Wildcats were able to keep the ball away from Indiana’s big men and out of the lane, stopping the sixth best rebounding team in the country from many second chances. Combined with the Hoosiers near inability to hit a field goal, Indiana was held to three field goals in the first 18 minutes of play.
But in those final two minutes of the half, Vonleh led the Hoosiers on an 11-3 run that shaved the Wildcat lead to 22-19.
Northwestern started the second half with its own run, a 10-2 scoring drive thanks to three quick buckets from Crawford. But it was Vonleh again that put the Hoosiers on his back, scoring another six points to fight back to a 33-31 deficit with 10:02 left in the game.
Indiana guard Evan Gordon nailed a fast break three to finally give Indiana a 36-35 lead with just over seven minutes left in the game. Just a minute later, the ‘Cats’ Tre Demps knocked down his own fast break three to tie the game at 38-38. Demps went on to take over in the next three minutes and score nine consecutive points for the Wildcats, giving Northwestern a 47-40 lead.
With one minute left, Indiana began to foul to extend the game. Even as Northwestern shot 7-for-9 from the free throw line in the last minute, the Hoosiers began to play at the pace they love, scoring five points in the last 45 seconds to remind the Northwestern faithful what it’s like to be a fan of the Cardiac ‘Cats. But poor shooting continued to plague Indiana to the very end.
The Good: The Wildcats held a Hoosier team that scores 80 points per game to just three field goals in the first 18 minutes of play, and 25 percent shooting for the game. Indiana is the country’s sixth best rebounding team, and Northwestern was only outrebounded by one. Alex Olah, who had five blocks, did a great job of keeping Vonleh, Indiana’s best big man, from completely owning the paint in this game.
The Bad: Drew Crawford is a master of fast-break basketball. But Northwestern only had two fast break opportunities this game. Both times, they converted the break into points, but still, this is probably why Northwestern has the lowest scoring offense in the Big Ten.
The Ugly: Both teams had a horrendous first half. While the Wildcats seemed to improve vastly in the second, they still shot 24 percent from the field, and only 12.5 percent from three.