Northwestern utilized its match-up zone defense and full-court press to create Indiana turnovers. Northwestern freshman guard Mohamed Hachad, in only his third start, provided the defensive spark for the Wildcats with six steals -- four in the first half alone.What dislocated finger?
The Wildcats lead by as many as nine points in the first half before going to the locker room with a 30-24 lead.
With the Wildcats leading by eight points only four minutes into the second half, Northwestern's leading scorer and only true center, Aaron Jennings, went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul. Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody substituted shooting forward Winston Blake into the game for Jennings and moved guard/forward Jason Burke to center.
Northwestern's smaller lineup was able to exploit the Indiana man-to-man defense further with their trademark motion-offense, scoring time and time again with perfectly timed back-door cuts to the basket. The Wildcats led by as many as 17 points in the second half.
Down ten points with just over two minutes to play, Indiana elected to press and foul Northwestern to stop the clock in a desperate last attempt to narrow the deficit. Northwestern entered the game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten but did not have to shoot perfectly from the line to hold on for the victory. The Wildcats beat the Hoosiers down the floor for another three layups in the final two minutes.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Wildcats had scored on 18 layups off back-door cuts, fast break opportunities, and dribble penetration. Northwestern, the Big Ten's worst rebounding team, also out-rebounded Indiana 38-31.
The Wildcats were lead by Jitim Young, who recorded a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and T.J. Parker (21 points). A.J. Moye led the way for the Hoosiers with 14 points. Kyle Hornsby, Tom Coverdale, and Bracey Wright were a combined 0-for-12 beyond the arc.
Northwestern junior guard Jitim Young dislocated the middle finger on his left hand in the second half against Ohio State on Saturday. After trainers had great difficulty resetting the finger, there was some question at the beginning of the week whether Jitim would be sidelined for the rest of the season. Jitim not only played Wednesday night against the Hoosiers, but he starred. Playing with the dislocated finger taped to his ring finger, Jitim started at small forward to make room in the lineup for budding freshman Mohamed Hachad at guard. Jitim led all scoring with 23 points and all rebounding with 12. He also grabbed a game-high 5 offensive rebounds, dished out 2 assists, came up with a steal, and blocked a shot.Wiston joins the 1,000-point club
After the game, Coach Carmody had high praise for his leader. "Jitim was terrific tonight," he said. "He was trying to post up [Indiana big men] Newton and Leach at the end and we said ‘whoa,' but when he did get the ball he made very good decisions." Carmody added, "For a 6-foot-1-inch guy, he is unbelievable."
With just under 9-minutes to play, Winston Blake canned a long three-point field goal as he has so many times in his Northwestern career. This trey, however, put him over the 1,000-point mark in his Northwestern career.
Few fans seemed aware of the significance of the shot – other than the fact that it returned Northwestern's lead to 14 points in the midst of a mini-run by the Hoosiers. When a timeout was called with 7:42 to play, the public address system and the scoreboard announced Winston's achievement and the capacity crowd of 8,117 responded by giving Winston a nice hand.
A star is born
Much heralded recruit Mohamed Hachad worked his way into the starting rotation in the middle of the Wildcats' most recent three-game string of Big Ten away games. Wednesday night, Mohamed made his first start in Evanston. If his hustle and flashy play hadn't already made him a crowd favorite in his limited minutes in previous home games, Mohamed certainly became an instant crowd favorite in the Wildcats' upset of the Hoosiers.
Mohamed stole the ball six times, led fast breaks, glided through the lane to pass and score, soared for six rebounds, and distributed four assists.
His quickness and active play was felt all over the court, forcing bad passes by the Hooisers and creating opportunities for the ‘Cats. Whenever Mohamed entered or exited the game, he received an appreciative cheer.
Mohamed's performance even left Coach Carmody a little lost for words after the game: "And Mohamed…whew!" exclaimed the Coach.
The upcoming tilt
The Wildcats (9-10, 1-7) host the Badgers of Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) this Saturday, February 8 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Gregory Kane posts on Northwestern message boards as "go cats go". He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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