After beating Illinois on Thursday to up the ‘Cats B1G road wins mark to four of the last five, many joked perhaps we should just play on the road. Well, in essence today’s home game was just that in another embarassment for NU basketball as the Hoosier crowd outnumbered purple significantly with a 66/33 split in favor of the visitors. The age old battle for trying to keep the Chicago area alums of our opponents away will really only come when we become a hot ticket. After seemingly destined for single digits in the first half (we were stuck at 9 points forever), that day is a long way away. You wonder if the lack of NU fans, clearly with 4-digits of them giving or selling tickets to IU fans will become a key metric in Jim Phillips’ year-end assessment of the program.
While we’re on the topic of crowd, bravo to the student section today for packing the place and really getting in to the game. When NU made its second half run, you were awesome and were able to drown out the sea of cream and crimson. If only we could get that kind of student support every game, it would make a huge difference. Great job.
Northwestern played a stellar second half against Indiana (16-2, 4-1), the nation’s #2 team (until tomorrow when the new rankings come out), but they had dug themselves too big of a hole with a rather putrid offensive performance in the opening half. Candidly, Reggie Hearn seemed to be the only Wildcat with any hint of aggression on offense and he single-handedly saved us from a blowout by providing enough points to muscle us to a 14-point (31-17) halftime deficit. The Hoosiers were on hyper-aggressive mode, trying to get to the glass within the first :05 of each possession and pounding the glass for another Carmody-era rebounding tipped scales stat sheet that we’ve come to know and hate.
However, the second half was a completely different story. Jared Swopshire hit another gear and Hearn continued his stellar play, while NU really sprung a curveball by going 1-3-1 with about 8 minutes to go in the game and it caused the Hoosiers all kinds of problems. NU was able to mount a furious comeback, cutting the lead all the way down to five, but then NU couldn’t contain IU when it counted as Victor Oladipo buried a back-breaking three, followed by a game-clinching putback by Cody Zeller who just dominated the ‘Cats on the glass en route to a 23-point, 10
rebound day. Down the stretch it turned in to a FT shooting contest as the Hoosiers, led by Zeller’s 9-10 performance at the line, hit them when they needed them, while NU continued their season-long struggles from the charity stripe.
Hearn paced NU with 22 points on a dazzling performance mixing up pull-up jumpers with crafty moves in traffic and he combined with Jared Swopshire (13 points) to keep NU in this one. Once again, Tre Demps was inexplicably held out of the game for most of the first half despite an obvious lack of aggression and penetration by the NU guards. Demps candidly forced things once he did get in, but as usual was able to create off the dribble and at least attempt to attack the basket. Freshmen Kale Abrahamson and Alex Olah still looked timid and lacking confidence to take shots on offense, a troubling trend that will need to change for NU to progress now that we’re in the meat of the schedule. Demps finished with 11 points on the day and only 16 minutes of action and as many of you have pointed out, it is clear he’s still trying to find the balance between creating offense and playing within the system, the result of which is a few poor shots per game.
Overall, the play of NU was encouraging in a game where I gave them zero shot. The defense played rather well and forced Indiana to really work on each possession, and played extremely well when we went zone. Again, our lack of rebounding was a factor, but then again few in the nation can stop Cody Zeller’s incredible nose for the ball. The ‘Cats showed flashes of real progress, but failed to play consistently throughout the game. As Gus Johnson and Mike Kelley noted, NU was getting quality looks, but just couldn’t make shots, the Carmody mantra.
NU drops to 11-7, 2-4 and continues its tough slate with a home date with top ten Minnesota on Wednesday night at 8pm ct at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern’s technical home winning streak against IU ends at three and the ‘Cats have now won 6 of the last 9 against IU. Here’s hoping we don’t get embarassed again by visiting fans outnumbering our fans on Wednesday.