WHAT LOOKED GOOD:Several things stand out. Number one, Indiana was able to deliver the finishing blow to a game. IU hit a couple of big shots down the stretch. With the Hoosiers clinging to a 54-50 lead, Troy Williams scored on a big reverse layup with 1:59 to play to put IU up by six. Later, it was senior Will Sheehey who hit the big shot. The Hoosiers led 56-51 and called a timeout with 1:04 to play and 16 on the shot clock. Sheehey got free from the left wing and knocked down a huge 3-pointer with 51.8 seconds to play to put IU up by eight. Sheehey had missed his previous three 3-pointers but had the confidence to hit that one in that situation. That's a big lift for this team. Another thing that looked good was that unlike the Penn State debacle where the Hoosiers couldn't inbound the ball at the end of the game they were able to execute all of the end-of-the-game plays when needed. Another huge statistic for Indiana in this one was the fact IU committed a season-low seven turnovers. IU had four turnovers in the first half and three in the second half. And Indiana's four freshmen who played in the game combined to only turn it over one time. That's a big statistic. Indiana shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and 47.1 percent for the game. That's a big difference from the first game against Northwestern when IU hit 15-of-60 shots from the field. Saturday, IU made 14 field goals in the first half alone.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:IU was outrebounded 35-29 despite having a significant height advantage at times. Free throw shooting wasn't good. The Hoosiers were 9-of-18 from the line. Stanford Robinson, who came into the game shooting an even 50 percent on 27-of-54 foul shots, made his first three and looked on his way to a solid effort in that respect. He then missed his next three to get back to 50 percent for the game. IU allowed Alex Olah to be way too successful. This is a player who spent the entire week in a pair of walking boots with sprained ankles on both feet. He wasn't cleared to play in the game until an hour before hand. And then he scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 39 minutes of play. IU needs to do a better job against a banged up player like that. Give Olah credit, but Indiana needs to do better there. IU gave up 13 offensive rebounds. Some of that is a product of the Hoosiers playing zone almost the entire game but several of them were 50/50 balls that got knocked back out to the top of the key and kept in play.
FOR STARTERS:The familiar starting lineup of Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey was a little bit different when Austin Etherington started in place of Robinson. Both Robinson and Etherington would each play 15 minutes in the game. IU's starters combined to 48 of Indiana's 61 points The starters shot 20-of-41 from the field. Four of the starters scored 12 points, everyone but Etherington who was held scoreless. All four starters made exactly five field goals. The starters had 22 of the 29 rebounds. They also had five of the seven turnovers and all five were by Sheehey (3) and Yogi (2).
LOSING STREAK COMES TO AN END Indiana had dropped three games in a row which matched its longest losing streak in the last three seasons. The other three-game skid came against Minnesota, Ohio State and Nebraska in the 2011-12 season. The last time IU lost more than four in a row was the nine-game losing streak to close the 2010-11 season.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Saturday's win over Northwestern:
1. NOAH VONLEH: Vonleh had solid numbers Saturday night. He had 12 points, eight rebounds and no turnovers in 35 minutes of action. Perhaps one of his biggest numbers, however, was fouls. Vonleh picked up two. This is after a game against Purdue in which he was completely ineffective because he picked up four very quickly. Saturday night, his first foul came with 15:24 to play in the game. Against Purdue, he already had four at that point. His second foul Saturday night came with 1:23 to play. Another interesting note with Vonleh is that in the last 21 games he has only had double-digit shot attempts twice. Both against Northwestern. The first time he was 5-for-15 from the field. This game he was 5-for-11. A big difference. He only got to the line four times and hit two but he was still pretty active on both ends of the floor. He had a huge block from behind at one point in the game, too.
2. TROY WILLIAMS: Will Sheehey said it was Williams' best game of the year. It's hard to disagree. He hit 5-of-7 shots from the field including three dunks in the first half. He hit a huge reverse layup with 1:59 to play with IU clinging to a four-point lead. That bucket came off a pass from Vonleh. Earlier, with 4:43 to play, it was the other way around. Williams had the drive and dish, dumping it off to Vonleh who finished to give IU a 54-46 advantage. The biggest statistic for Williams was the fact he did not commit a turnover in 23 minutes. In 26 games this season, Williams has committed at least one turnover in 22 games. He had at least one in six games in a row coming into Saturday's game, too. He missed two more 3-pointers to fall to 3-of-25 on the year from distance but that was covered up in this one by all the things he did in his other phases of the game.
3. WILL SHEEHEY: Sheehey hit double figures in scoring for the fourth game in a row but in this one he hit some big baskets in crucial times for the Hoosiers. He scored nine of his 12 points in the second half including a back-breaking 3-pointer with 51.8 seconds to play that put IU up by eight. He also followed his own miss for a bucket with 14:29 remaining, had a 15 foot jumper at the 7:52 mark and came back with another jumper in the late over Olah with 6:19 to play. Both of those shots came at a time when the Hoosiers were struggling for offense and needed their senior leader to knock down shots.
NEXT UP: Indiana (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) will travel to Wisconsin Tuesday night to face the Badgers, arguably the Big Ten's hottest team of late. Wisconsin will also be looking to avenge an earlier 75-72 loss to Indiana in Bloomington at a time when the Badgers were a perfect 16-0 on the year. The game will tip Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET from the Kohl Center and will be televised by ESPN.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch