Sunday, Jan 9th, 6:00 CT
After an 0-3 start in Big Ten play, Northwestern (9-4, 0-3) is up against the odds. The program is still in search of their first-ever NCAA tournament bid in school history, but a big won't be achieved without a few quality wins in conference. The Wildcats seek their first conference win against the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday.
Northwestern enters on a three-game losing streak, capped off with an 88-62 beatdown from the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Wildcats have lost four of their last five games, dating back to their loss to St. John's in New York City.
Indiana comes in on a major skid as well. The Hoosiers have lost five-straight games, and seven of their last ten games, after starting 6-0. Sunday's game will help separate the pack in the Big Ten standings. Northwestern desperately needs a win to keep their tournament bid hopes alive.
In 2010, Northwestern won two out of three matchup with the Hoosiers. The Wildcats won handily over Indiana when they first met in Evanston. The Hoosiers pulled an 88-80 overtime win in Bloomington in the second matchup. The ‘Cats took the third meeting over IU in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
QUOTES FROM INDIANA:
Indiana head coach Tom Crean on Northwestern: "First off, you have to throw out the game on Thursday night, that's not them. Illinois played outstanding and didn't miss shots. Northwestern missed shots they usually make so we're not going to spend a lot of time on that game. We know we're going to get a great game from them. We know they're going to be very hungry at home and they're going to want to come out and redeem themselves, as do we. I think that's what's most important."
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR THE WILDCATS: JerShon Cobb
The true freshman guard has made an immediate impact for the Wildcats. Cobb scored 18 points in Thursday's loss to the Illini, and has been one of the bright spots on a struggling team.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR THE HOOSIERS: Christian Watford
The Hoosiers are led by sophomore forward Christian Watford (6-9, 230-lb.) Watford enters Sunday's game averaging 16.4 points per game, leading the Hoosiers in that category. The Indiana offense revolves around Watford.
In addition to being a major scoring threat, Watford creates a major matchup problem with his 6'9 frame. Northwestern will struggle to matchup with Watford's height. However, if the ‘Cats can contain Watford, the Hoosier offense will face major struggles.
KEY MATCHUP: Luka Mirkovic vs. Christian Watford
Conventional wisdom would lead you to assume that Northwestern center Luka Mirkovic will be matched against Indiana's leading scorer Christian Watford. Watford at 6'9, is the Hoosiers' tallest player, giving Mirkovic a height advantage. However, Watford is by far, more athletic than Mirkovic.
Mirkovic's defense has vastly improved over the past few games, but he will face a very tough challenge with Watford. This matchup will have a huge impact on the game.
KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN:
Depth. Plain and simple, Northwestern needs depth. With a dinged up John Shurna, and a struggling Drew Crawford, the Wildcats need help from somebody else.
The Wildcat bench needs to step up for some major contributions. The ‘Cats need help a big game from somebody. Doesn't matter who, just somebody.