Indiana beat Northwestern for the 26th straight time on Wednesday night. Northwestern played hard but in the end just didn't have enough firepower to beat Indiana at Assembly Hall. IU won a game they should win at home. So what positives can the Hoosiers build on from their performance Wednesday night?
First of all, power forward Sean Kline played 18 solid minutes. While Kline's numbers were not great, they were numbers you want to see from a role player coming off the bench. Kline went 3-for-3 from the floor and added 3 rebounds. More importantly he played 18 tough minutes. Kline's minutes had been steadily declining recently. He averaged less than 4 minutes per game over the past three games, including no action against Ohio State last Saturday.
IU needs Kline to continue developing if they want to compete for the Big Ten championship. He'll give Coach Davis another big body to bang inside if he continues to improve. Davis has been reluctant to use Kline in the hectic environments of Freedom Hall against Kentucky and at Ohio State. Eventually, Kline is going to need to play big minutes in a tough environment, so his development is crucial.
Another great sign for Hoosier fans was the shooting of Kyle Hornsby. Hornsby realizes that shooters need to continue firing shots when they have bad games. After shooting 0-for-9 from the field against Ohio State, Hornsby did not hesitate to take the first shot against Northwestern. He missed the shot, but never lost confidence and went on to make all four of his three point attempts in the first half. For the game Hornsby shot 7-for-9 from the field including 5-for-6 from deep. Hornsby is another role player Indiana needs to play well to take the pressure off of its other shooters.
Tom Coverdale also shot the ball well, but the Hoosiers need more from Coverdale than just good shooting. They need his leadership. Coverdale provided it playing well in all aspects of the game prompting Davis to say it was Coverdale's best game since he carried the team on his back against Maryland earlier this year. Coverdale had 19 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds, but what makes Coverdale special can't be seen on a stat sheet. He makes plays when IU really needs them. He moved well without the ball and made the decision to step up with Wright sitting on the bench with a sore back.
Indiana pounded the boards against Northwestern. The Wildcats are not an athletic team, but the Hoosiers must be satisfied with their effort after holding Northwestern to four offensive rebounds. The Hoosiers gave up at least 10 offensive rebounds in their past seven games but were much more active on Wednesday night. Often teams with good shot blockers give up offensive rebounds because those shot blockers are out of position after trying to block shots. Leach, Newton and Kline blocked out their men well against Northwestern.
While all these factors are important, perhaps most important is that Mike Davis still seems to know which buttons to push to get his team to play its best basketball. Davis criticized his seniors saying they were not leading the team and they responded playing some of their best basketball as a group all season. He also threatened to make the team run suicides the following morning at 5:30 if they gave up a plethora of offensive rebounds. Indiana responded by holding Northwestern to four offensive rebounds. It was the coaching of Mike Davis which resulted in a final four run for IU last year and his methods continue to work for the Hoosiers.
While Indiana played well, they still have some problems they need to correct. They never gave Northwestern the knockout punch. The Wildcats never got close enough to really threat Indiana, but the Hoosiers did not build on their lead during the second half. IU might not be so lucky against a more talented foe.
IU had 15 turnovers, struggling against Northwestern's press at the end of the game. Northwestern lacks athleticism and did not have an active press, but still caused Indiana problems. The Hoosiers need to take better care of the ball.
Indiana still depends on the three-pointer. IU made their threes at big points in the game against Northwestern and shot 59 percent from three point land for the game. They need to find an inside game soon if they want to make a run in March.
Indiana gets it done with injured Wright sitting
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