Taber Helps Hoosiers End Two-Game Skid

Bloomington, Ind . – Kelvin Sampson proved he's willing to try just about anything to get his team going. Frustrated with the lack of productivity at the second forward position and his team's recent two-game skid, Sampson turned to one-time walk-on Kyle Taber to start Sunday...

Bloomington, Ind . – Kelvin Sampson proved he's willing to try just about anything to get his team going.

Frustrated with the lack of productivity at the second forward position and his team's recent two-game skid, Sampson turned to one-time walk-on Kyle Taber to start Sunday against Northwestern. Taber responded with four rebounds and a block in 24 minutes to help the Hoosiers to a 75-63 win over the Wildcats.

Indiana improved to 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten with the win, while Northwestern dropped to 7-12 overall and 0-8 in league play.

"We haven't been getting as much from that position as we'd like to see," said Sampson. "At some point, you need to reward kids that work their butt off every day."

That player was Taber, who had played a total of 40 minutes in the Hoosiers' first 20 games. But he started in place of Mike White – who didn't see any action Sunday – and played many of the minutes usually reserved for DeAndre Thomas, who played only two minutes against the Wildcats.

"I didn't know if he was going to (start me) just to spark the team, but Coach kept putting me in," said Taber. "It was a good feeling."

While Taber's presence might have provided some sort of spark, it was Eric Gordon and D.J. White that carried the Hoosiers to their 34th consecutive win over Northwestern in Bloomington. Gordon connected on five first-half 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 29 points, while White added 26 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Gordon and White combined for 55 of the team's 75 points, as the rest of the Hoosiers missed 20 of 27 shots. Armon Bassett struggled for a second straight game, going 3-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc. A.J. Ratliff and Lance Stemler combined to go 2-of-10 from the field, and Jordan Crawford played only two minutes before departing with a sprained ankle.

But White and Gordon were more than enough against a Northwestern team that hasn't won a Big Ten game since Feb. 10, 2007, and was most recently thumped by Illinois by 33.

"I know they're not a two-man team, but those two guys killed us today," said Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody.

Indiana also clobbered the Wildcats on the board. Sampson said the team had a goal of out-rebounding Northwestern by 20, and they accomplished that feat with 39-17 edge.

Taber had four of those rebounds, and he played his role in the Hoosiers' win. He said he found out about the surprise start Saturday night after practice, and admitted it caught him off guard.

"I was pretty shocked at first, but I was excited," Taber said. "It was hard to sleep."

The Assembly Hall crowd implored Taber to attempt a shot late in the game, but he passed on an open look from the free-throw line. Other than an attempted tip-in in the first half, Taber didn't look for his own offense, instead trying to do the little things that Sampson says he's done in practice.

"I thought he did a nice job," Sampson said. "He screens when he should screen, he cuts when he should cut. He gets on the floor for loose balls."

Taber's presence might have been the feel good story of Sunday's contest, but there remains plenty for the Hoosiers to be concerned about as they prepare for a rough five-game stretch beginning Thursday at Illinois. Northwestern shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the first half and made 7-of-9 3-pointers as well to be within three, 40-37, at halftime.

The Wildcats eventually inched to within two, 52-50, midway through the second half. But Gordon scored eight points during a 14-2 run enabled Sampson's team to pull away from a Northwestern team that has now dropped 13 consecutive Big Ten games dating back to last year.

While Gordon's scoring was key, so was the Hoosiers decision to switch to a zone. Northwestern stayed close for the game's first 30 minutes thanks to solid shooting from behind the 3-point arc and a slew of backcuts that produced either lay-ups or trips to the free-throw line, but the zone slowed down the Wildcat attack.

"We were able to dictate their shots," said Sampson. "They play their way, and it's hard to get them out of their offense. In the zone, we could dictate where the shots were coming from."

Most of those shots were coming from behind the 3-point arc, and Northwestern missed all five of their attempts from deep during IU's game-changing 14-2 run.

"They have to make 3s to compete," said Sampson. "If they're not making 3s, they struggle."

D. White 9-11 8-11 26, Taber 0-1 0-0 0, Bassett 3-11 0-0 7, Ellis 1-3 2-2 4, Gordon 8-14 7-8 29, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Crawford 0-0 0-0 0, Ratliff 1-6 0-0 3, Stemler 14 0-0 3, McGee 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 24-52 17-21 75.

Ryan 1-3 0-0 2, Coble 4-9 3-5 12, Moore 7-11 0-0 17, Thompson 3-9 0-0 7, Williams 1-5 0-0 2, Okrzesik 2-3 2-2 8, Baran 1-3 0-0 3, Nash 4-5 2-2 12. Totals 23-48 7-9 63.

3-Pointers: Indiana 10-30 (Gordon 6-10, Ratliff 1-6, Bassett 1-8, Stemler 1-4, McGee 1-1, Ellis 0-1), Northwestern 10-20 (Moore 3-7, Okrzesik 2-2, Nash 2-3, Baran 1-2, Coble 1-3, Thompson 1-3). Rebounds: Indiana 39 (D. White 13), Northwestern 17 (Coble 4). Assists: Indiana 16 (Bassett 6), Northwestern 18 (Moore 5). Turnovers: Indiana 11, Northwestern 9. Blocks: Indiana 4 (D. White 2, Taber, Ratliff), Northwestern 1 (Williams). Steals: Indiana 4, Northwestern 3. Attendance: 17,332. Top Stories