Against Michigan, Northwestern gave a businesslike performance. Against Indiana on Sunday the Wildcats showed the other side of the coin as strong emotions carried Northwestern to an easy 78-61 victory.
From the opening dunk by Drew Crawford, to the final turnaround jumper by Ivan Peljusic the Wildcats played with an intensity that is underscored by the fact that every home game is a must-win in this part of the season.
Things got a little tense near the end of the first half as Indiana had the margin to single digits for a moment near the end, but Mike Capocci gave Northwestern a moral boost heading into halftime with a dunk of his own.
All five Northwestern starters finished in double-figures. John Shurna led the Wildcats with 16 points. He also had 6 assists. Senior Jeremy Nash had a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.
The entire second half the Wildcats appeared to have things under control. While Indiana made a couple runs, the Hoosiers never trailed by fewer than 10 points after the first minute of the second 20 minutes. Whenever Indiana got within a few points someone knocked down the big shot.
Northwestern was able to generate an energy on the defensive end as well. The Wildcats held Indiana to 35 percent shooting, including 2-17 from beyond the arc. The Wildcats had 9 blocks and really shut down the interior. The best block of the game was Nash's over the back block on a three-point attempt by Verdell Jones III. Jones led Indiana with 28 points.
Even though this game goes down as a sell-out it was midterm week so the West basket bleachers were a little sparsely populated. Expect that to change (it needs to) when Minnesota comes to town for Northwestern's most difficult remaining game next Sunday.
Overall this was a strong effort by the Wildcats. They never trailed and got a comfortable victory over one of the bottom teams in the Big Ten. This is why Northwestern still has NCAA Tournament hopes. This many games against the lower third of the conference should help the Wildcats rebound up the standings.
Two things I would've liked to see improved:
- Free throw shooting - 18-26 overall including a few front-ends of 1-and-1s.
- Bench minutes - Mike Capocci gave Northwestern good minutes, but he only played 5 minutes. Why? Bill Carmody needs to use his bench more in games like this.