With every basketball game that Indiana plays this season we will take a look at three things to watch that could be important for that game.
Here are the three keys for today's Northwestern game. We'll call this one the three D's:
1. DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE
Northwestern has trouble scoring points. The Wildcats are averaging 62.4 points per game which ranks 337th nationally. But 62 points would be a lot for Northwestern compared to how the Wildcats have fared in Big Ten play. In four of Northwestern's five Big Ten games, the Wildcats have scored 51 points or less. In the last two games, Northwestern has scored 49 against Illinois and 40 against Michigan State. And shockingly, the 49 was enough to beat the Illini. The Wildcats also struggle shooting the ball. Northwestern's three top scorers are Drew Crawford, Jershon Cobb and Tre Demps. The best shooter of that group has hit 40.4 percent of his shots. Indiana needs to keep that trend going today with good defense that will limit Northwestern's shots and keep the Wildcats' field goal percentage down.
2. DICTATE TEMPO
Northwestern is going to want a game in the 50's or 60's at the most (It probably would prefer one in the 40's based on recent scores) while Indiana has only had one game in the last nine where it has scored less than 70 points. That was 56 against Michigan State, a team that just held Northwestern to 40 earlier this week. This game will be a battle of wills. Northwestern will try to be slow and deliberate while IU will try to pick up the race and run the Wildcats out of Assembly Hall. If IU scores 70 or more it should be enough against this Northwestern team.
3. DON'T HAVE A LETDOWN
The Wisconsin game was huge on many fronts for the Hoosiers. Snapping a 12-game program losing streak against the Badgers was big as well as it was Tom Crean's first win against Bo Ryan since becoming the IU coach six years ago. Long term it was the signature victory that Indiana's resume has been lacking. But a loss to Northwestern would balance that win out and be the bad loss that IU's resume cannot afford. The Wildcats are 8-10 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play. One thing that IU has going for it is the fact that this game is in Assembly Hall, a venue where the Hoosiers are 45-4 over the last three seasons. If the fans' energy can rival what it was Tuesday night against Wisconsin, that should provide IU with a huge emotional lift and buoy its confidence.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch