It’s round two of Indiana vs. Northwestern, and IU’s fortunes have taken a dramatic turn since the first meeting in early December. In that game the Hoosiers pulled it out late after Romeo Langford hit a runner in the lane with under a minute left.
In that earlier meeting, neither team led by more than five points and Indiana kept making big plays to keep things close before finally breaking through at the end. During their current four game losing streak, the Hoosiers have struggled to pull together a complete effort, routinely allowing the opposition to go on big runs.
Although Hoosier fans should know better, some might still be inclined to believe that IU should win this game based on history and/or the Wildcats’ record in league play. But Northwestern’s 2-5 start in the Big Ten requires more careful examination. Three of those five losses are against Michigan and Michigan State.
Northwestern is always one of the “friendlier” road environments in the Big Ten for Indiana, with a healthy alumni base in the Chicago area. The Hoosiers will take any advantage they can right now as they look to end their losing streak and get back to .500 in the conference.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
[Breaking: Devonte Green will not play in tonight’s game]
Indiana (12-6, 3-4) at Northwestern (11-7, 2-5)
- Tip time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Welsh Ryan Arena (7,039)
- Television: BTN (Brandon Gaudin and Jon Crispin)
- Series: Indiana leads 117-51 (IU won the last meeting 68-66 on Dec. 1)
- Point Spread: Northwestern is a 1-point favorite.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
Chris Collins is in his sixth season leading Northwestern.
Indiana (KenPom No. 36)
- Juwan Morgan, forward, 6-foot-8, 232 pounds
- Justin Smith, forward, 6-foot-7, 227 pounds
- Zach McRoberts, forward, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds
- Romeo Langford, guard, 6-foot-6, 215 pounds
- Rob Phinisee, guard, 6-foot-1, 182 pounds
Key bench players — Damezi Anderson (F), De’Ron Davis (F), Al Durham (G)
Northwestern (KenPom No. 59)
- Vic Law, forward, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds
- AJ Turner, forward, 6-foot-7, 188 pounds
- Dererk Pardon, center, 6-foot-8, 235 pounds
- Ryan Taylor, guard, 6-foot-6, 195 pounds
- Anthony Gaines, guard, 6-foot-4, 205 pounds
Key bench players — Barrett Benson (C), Miller Kopp (F), and Pete Nance (F)
TALE OF THE TAPE
KEYS TO VICTORY
Pardon me, can someone stop him please?
Dererk Pardon was virtually unstoppable in the first meeting. In fact, Northwestern probably only lost the game because they stopped feeding him the ball in the post as the second half wore on. The senior forward went 11-for-15 from the field for 24 points and added 10 rebounds.
Juwan Morgan will probably draw the assignment, but that comes with a high risk of foul trouble, especially on the road. If De’Ron Davis can contribute, his minutes would be valuable here in providing additional support.
It’s Romeo vs. Law, Part II
In the first matchup, Romeo fought the Law and Romeo won. His twelve foot floater with 40 seconds remaining was the game winner as the IU freshman scored 20 on the night. Langford got his points on an efficient 8-for-13 from the field in 36 minutes of action.
Law is surely looking for a little redemption in the rematch, but his health could be a question mark. He returned to action in Northwestern’s most recent game after suffering a knee injury and was shaking off rust in that contest.
Look for Law to give Langford a little more space on the perimeter and dare him to shoot jump shots.
Can Justin Smith keep it going?
Ever so quietly, Justin Smith is starting to emerge. It can be difficult to find positives during a four game losing streak, but Smith is raising his game and his effort level. He is 8th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage making 58.6% of his shots. He is shooting 66.7% (20-of-30) in the last 5 games and averaging 8.7 points during those contests.
With Langford and Morgan wrapped up in tough matchups, Smith has an opportunity to continue to shine in this one. He was strong down the stretch in the first meeting. As a Chicago area native, it would be an especially sweet game for Smith to have a breakout performance.
Expect Northwestern to pack it in, but…
The book is out on how to defend this IU team. Pack the defense in, clog up the driving lanes, and force Indiana to make jump shots. Anyone who tries to do otherwise is playing with fire because of the unique abilities of Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. Interestingly, Northwestern gives up 57.5% of their total points allowed via the 2-point shot. That is the ninth highest percentage nationally.
In other words, the game plan that seems to slow down the Hoosiers doesn’t appear to be what Northwestern likes to do. The Wildcats defend the 3-point shot well (31%) but teams shoot 50% from 2-point range. Indiana only attempted 11 3-pointers in the first meeting. We’ll be surprised if that number isn’t much higher in the rematch.
Keep an eye on Evan Fitzner. He didn’t see the floor against Purdue, but he is the only guy that a defense has to run off the three point line — which could help unclog the paint. His defense hasn’t been great, so it is a trade off to play him right now.
Hoosier defense needs to lead the way.
At 42.7% from the field, Northwestern is not a great shooting team. If IU has a strength right now, it is their defense. The Hoosiers held the Wildcats to 44% in the earlier game, and 27% in the meeting last year. If IU can hold Northwestern under 65 points on Tuesday night they should be able to end the 4-game skid.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier