Indiana once again found themselves in a tight game late at Assembly Hall, but it proved to be not their night. The Hoosier offense couldn't bail out their shaky defensive effort as they were swept by the Wildcats this season. Inside we take a look at they key storylines and events from tonight's game.
After giving up far too many open three-pointers and foul shots in the first half, Indiana came out of the halftime lockerroom with a different level of focus and intensity. Their defense was much more sound as they were able to extend out on shooters and move their feet to not surrender foul shots. During the first seven minutes of the half the Hoosiers outscored Northwestern 13-4 by stringing together multiple stops on the defensive end. Getting consecutive stops was the Hoosiers biggest problem all game long and this small stretch enabled them to get back in the game and showed what could have been with better overall defense.
When It Was Over
Northwestern came down the court leading 67-64 looking to put the game away with another basket in the final 30 seconds. Instead, Juice Thompson penetrated and threw the ball right to Matt Roth
. The Hoosiers called a timeout and set up a play with 19 seconds left in the game.
Out of the timeout Verdell Jones
took the ball at the top of the key and penetrated the lane for a twisting shot against tight interior defense. His shot bounced off the rim and Christian Watford
almost pulled it down, but had the ball knocked away on the ground. The Hoosiers were forced to foul and Juice Thompson hit two free throws to extend the lead to 69-64 with 19 seconds left. Indiana rushed down the court and Jones found Watford for an open 3, but he couldn't connect. Game over.
Verdell Jones had a team-high 18 points, but what earns him this honor is that he was also adept at setting up his teammates, recording a team-high six assists. Only one other Hoosier recorded more than a single assist (Rivers, 2). Throw in a 5-5 performance from the line and it was a pretty good offensive effort from Jones. He couldn't find the key bucket they needed late, but he was 6-9 from the field at the time he took it so it's hard to fault him.
Why They Lost
Indiana shot 50.0% from the field, outrebounded their opponent 25-19 overall with eight offensive rebounds, and hit 14 of their 19 free throws, a 74% clip. But those numbers didn't matter in a game where IU once again simply couldn't contain the Wildcat offense. Northwestern knocked down 11 threes due in large part to an IU offense that was repeatedly slow to get out on shooters. When they weren't knocking down open looks, they were getting to the line. Indiana committed 22 fouls that translated into 21-25 free throw shooting for the Wildcats. Indiana simply couldn't find enough stops on this night to win the game.
Indiana's bench has been a strength most of the season, but tonight they were sorely missed. They combined for only 11 points, matching the output of the Wildcats only scorer off the bench, Alex Marcotullio
, whose all-around floor game really sparked the Wildcats. Indiana countered with Will Sheehey
, whose seven points and four rebounds were solid, and Derek Elston
's 11 rebounds were a key contribution. But the Hoosiers got nothing from Victor Oladipo
and Matt Roth, while Daniel Moore
surrendered nine points to Thompson in the lone minute he played. IU's bench didn't provide enough punch on this night.
Most Promising Development
There honestly weren't a lot of positive developments that came out of this game as Indiana made no new breakthroughs and played out a scenario that has been all too familiar this season. Perhaps the biggest positive was Elston's 11 rebounds. If he's struggling offensively or defensively, then he can always make an impact on the glass and perhaps this is the start of a trend for him. However, even his effort shines a light on the lack of rebounding of Pritchard and Watford, who combined for only five rebounds.
Most Concerning Development
Indiana once again put themselves into position to win a game late, but they couldn't execute well enough to find the critical scores they needed. When Jordan Hulls
hit a very deep 3 to cut the lead to 67-64 with 1:12 left it looked like IU's momentum would perhaps carry them through. Instead, IU's next possession seemed to break down into one-on-one basketball and Jones couldn't convert a tough look. Minutes earlier it was Watford trying to force the action with individual moves and coming up empty. When the game gets tight the Hoosiers still seem to have a tendency to want to do it alone and often force the action. It's a young team…but fans are growing impatient as they learn to finish as a team.
This game is one the Hoosiers will want to quickly forget and that will be easy to do as the Boilermakers invade Assembly Hall Wednesday night. While losing to the Wildcats isn't a great omen for Indiana, perhaps a rivalry game is just what they need. It should spark a much better defensive intensity and ultimately it's that end of the court that will make or break IU against Purdue. The Hoosiers did a splendid job of containing JaJuan Johnson
in West Lafayette in their last match-up, but let E'twaun Moore run wild. It will be interesting to see if the home crowd is able to will them to a tight finish in this one and if they get there, to see if they can finish.