Tre Demps single-handedly wreaked havoc on offense, Alex Olah owned the boards and coach Chris Collins’ 2-3 zone paralyzed the high-octane Hoosier offense, as Northwestern (14-14, 5-10) pulled off a 72-65 upset at home over Indiana (19-10, 9-7).
With Wednesday’s victory, Northwestern captured its first four-game in-conference win streak since 1967, blasting memories of 10 straight losses to oblivion.
The game was the fourth showing of Collins’ zone defense, and the most convincing. Northwestern silenced the Big Ten’s highest scoring offense for more than 10 minutes in the second half, holding Indiana to 36.5 percent shooting overall.
“I really thought our wings, defensively, were fantastic in the second half,” Collins said. “Sanjay Lumpkin, I thought he was everywhere in the zone. He was covering a lot of different areas, and I thought Law was doing the same.”
After reaching double digits in the first three games of the stretch, Demps erupted for 23 points against Indiana. The redshirt junior scored nine consecutive points in the second half to turn a one-point Wildcat advantage into a double-digit lead. Indiana coach Tom Crean had the highest praise.
“I know his dad has had a great career in the NBA in administration and he’s going to have a make a decision one day about drafting [Demps],” Crean said. “That is a good player.”
Off the tip, Indiana fired two long-range jumpers and it looked as if Collins’s 2-3 zone might falter. But while the Hoosiers drilled three after three, the Wildcat front kept them out of the paint and off the boards. Indiana scored just six points in the purple and shot 27 percent on twos in the first half.
Vic Law, fresh off his 17-point performance against Penn State, scored 11 in the first half, and Northwestern entered the break tied 40-40. That’s when Demps took off, the zone tightened and Alex Olah took control of the boards.
On a night in which he passed John Shurna to become the Wildcats’ all-time leader in blocked shots, Olah was all over the court. The Romanian center picked up a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Collins said Olah has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the new defense.
“What the zone has done is kind of let him anchor the middle of our paint, and he likes it and the guys like it," Collins said. “When you're seven feet and you have your hands it becomes difficult to score against."
The Wildcats will look to continue their red-hot run on Saturday, when they travel to face Illinois.