Bloomington –It might have been Senior Day at IU, but it was the freshmen who delivered a victory for IU's outgoing players at Assembly Hall Saturday.
Jordan Hulls knocked down eight 3-pointers for a game-high 24 points, Christian Watford had 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, and Derek Elston had seven of his 17 in overtime as Indiana (10-20/4-14) topped Northwestern (19-12/7-11) 88-80 in overtime.
Add in eight points, seven rebounds and a series of key hustle plays from Bobby Capobianco, and Indiana's freshman class scored 63 of Indiana's 88 points and had a hand in just about every pivotal play as IU brought a halt to an 11-game, six-week long losing streak.
With the win, Indiana solidifies its standing as the No. 10 seed and will play either Northwestern or Michigan in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament next Thursday.
"In the second half and overtime, we had four freshmen and one sophomore on the floor, and they played like they'd been through a lot," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "I'm proud of the way they played."
While all of the newcomers came up big, none of the performances were any bigger than the one turned in by Hulls. Playing all but one minute Saturday afternoon, Hulls made 8-of-12 from behind the 3-point arc and handed out four assists. He hit a couple of threes early to keep his team from digging itself a big early hole, and three of his four second half 3-pointers either gave Indiana the lead or tied the game.
"Jordan made shot huge shots," Crean said. "That's going to be part of his persona at Indiana."
It was easily the biggest scoring outburst of Hulls' debut season, who nearly doubled his season-high of 13 before Saturday. Hulls' eight 3-pointers was only one shy of the school record of nine held by Rod Wilmont.
"Jordan can shoot that way anyday, anytime, coming off the bus, rolling out of bed," Capobianco said.
Despite the big performances by IU's newcomers the win didn't come easily for the Hoosiers, who squandered an eight-point lead in the closing three minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime. After a Jeremiah Rivers' free-throw extended IU's lead to eight, 69-61, with 3:24 left, Indiana failed to get another shot up in regulation, turning the ball over four times and missing the front end of a one-and-one.
Three of those turnovers were committed by Verdell Jones, who finished with 18 points and six assists. The first late Jones turnover set up Michael Thompson's game-tying 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining. Jones then turned it over again on IU's next possession, but was bailed out when Northwestern reserve Alex Marcotullio missed a breakaway layup that would have put Northwestern in front.
After Marcotullio followed that up with a missed 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining, Jones then turned it over on IU's final possession of the half as IU failed to get off a potential game-winning shot.
With the momentum seemingly gone heading into overtime, IU's freshmen wrestled it back. Derek Elston knocked down a pair of free throws on IU's opening possession of overtime, and Hulls extended the lead five with his eighth and final 3-pointer with 4:00 remaining. Elston then struck again, scoring on a quick baseline drive with 3:00 remaining that pushed the lead to seven, 76-69.
But Northwestern wasn't done. John Shurna – who finished a game-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting – scored on a tip-in and then followed that up with a layup with 2:02 remaining, cutting IU's lead to 77-73.
It was then Hulls and Capobianco that finished Northwestern off. With the shot clock winding down, Hulls launched a desperation and errant 3-point attempt that landed in the lap of Capobianco, who laid it in while getting fouled. The ensuing free-throw extended IU's lead to seven, 80-73, with 1:26 remaining, and Northwestern would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
With the win, Indiana was able to send Devan Dumes, surprise starter Tijan Jobe, Brett Finkelmeier and Steven Gambles out with a victory in their final game at Assembly Hall, something that wasn't lost on Crean.
"One of most miserable things in life is to lose on senior day," Crean said. "You feel so bad for your guys…to win it, it's a great feeling."
Watford 3-10 7-8 14, Elston 5-11 6-8 17, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0, Hulls 8-13 0-0 24, Jones 6-16 6-7 18, Finkelmeier 0-1 0-0 0, Rivers 1-3 3-4 5, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Capobianco 2-2 4-5 8, Pritchard 0-0 0-0 0, Dumes 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 26-60 26-32 88.
Mirkovic 4-7 0-2 8, Shurna 12-21 4-7 31, Crawford 1-4 1-2 4, Thompson 8-19 2-2 25, Nash 1-11 2-2 5, Capocci 0-0 0-0 0, Marcotullio 3-8 0-0 7, Fruendt 0-2 0-0 0, Curletti 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-72 9-15 80.
3-Pointers: Indiana 10-23 (Hulls 8-12, Elston 1-2, Watford 1-3, Jones 0-5, Finkelmeier 0-1), Northwestern 13-42 (Thompson 7-16, Shurna 3-9, Crawford 1-4, Nash 1-6, Marcotullio 1-5, Fruendt 0-2). Rebounds: Indiana 44 (Watford 11), Northwestern 37 (Shurna 12). Assists: Indiana 15 (Jones 6), Northwestern 21 (Thompson 8). Turnovers: Indiana 17, Northwestern 13. Blocks: Indiana 5 (Capobianco 2, Watford, Elston, Pritchard), Northwestern 5 (Mirkovic 3, Shurna 2). Steals: Indiana 11, Northwestern 10. Officials: Ed Hightower, Steve Skiles, Tim Hutchinson, Attendance: 17,277. Halftime Score: Indiana 34, Northwestern 28. Score at End of Regulation: Indiana 69, Northwestern 69.
Freshmen Send Seniors Out in Style
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