Big Ten play arrives for a quick two game test run on Saturday as the Northwestern Wildcats visit Bloomington.
Coming on the heels of a disappointing loss at Duke on Tuesday, Indiana needs to play well on its home floor to get off to a good start in league play and avoid a losing streak. With four consecutive games forthcoming against KenPom top 60 opponents, these next few weeks will be a good gauge of where the Hoosiers stand.
IU head coach Archie Miller shared a bit of good news at his press conference on Friday, indicating that except for Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter, all of the other players are healthy, have been practicing in full, and are not on any kind of restrictions. Thompson and Hunter continue to be out indefinitely.
Last year’s contest in Bloomington was a game in which Indiana’s improving defense really seemed to pull it all together. The Hoosiers won that game going away in January by a score of 66-46.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Northwestern (6-1) at Indiana (5-2)
- Tip time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
- Television: BTN
- Series: Indiana leads 116-51
- Point Spread: Indiana is favored by 8.5
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
Chris Collins is in his sixth season leading Northwestern.
- 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
- Vic Law, forward, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds
- Miller Kopp, forward, 6-foot-7, 210 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
TALE OF THE TAPE
KEYS TO VICTORY
Developing chemistry on offense
After the loss to Duke, Miller indicated that the Hoosier offense has lacked chemistry and has been a major culprit for their sluggish play. Much of that can be attributed to a rash of injuries that have limited what IU has been able to do in practice, and put lineups out on the floor that are less than desirable.
Northwestern’s defense is going to present a unique test for Indiana. Lacking a true point guard, the Wildcats go long across the board, with all five starters at 6-foot-6 or taller. That length has translated into a much improved defense.
Northwestern has a 88.6 defensive rating on the season, which is good for the 35th best mark in the country. The Wildcats have been good both inside and out, as opponents are shooting just 50 percent at the rim and 29.7 from beyond the arc.
Indiana will need to be aggressive here. Passing the ball around the perimeter isn’t likely to be productive. Rather than trying to shoot over the top of Northwestern’s length, Indiana will likely look to attack off the dribble and then take what the defense gives them, whether it be kick-outs or finishing at the rim.
Romeo fights the Law….and who wins?
It will be senior leader vs. freshman star on Saturday. Vic Law said this about his matchup with Romeo Langford:
“(I am) just going to guard him like normal,” senior forward Vic Law, who intends to match up against Langford on Saturday, said. “I’m athletic too. I hope he’s ready.”
Law is a strong defender, but Langford has shown the ability to get past just about anyone and finish off the dribble. It will be an interesting dual to watch for sure. With Langford drawing eight fouls against Duke, IU may look to try to run Law off the floor with foul trouble.
Indiana’s freshman point guard comes to mind for a couple reasons. First, how is he going to respond after a disappointing performance at Duke? Does he bounce back, or is this the beginning of a freshman funk?
Also noteworthy will be the matchups in this game. With Northwestern not playing a point guard, and not starting anyone under 6-foot-6, Collins may look to try to have whoever Phinisee is guarding catch the ball in the post.
On the other end, Phinisee will surely test his defenders ability to guard the perimeter. The Wildcats can bring smaller guards off the bench, and there will likely be plenty of cat and mouse games between Miller and Collins.
Miller brought up the “s” word again on Friday. He said he didn’t want to call his team soft, but just by bringing the word up, he kind of did. We are still looking for a player or players to be the floor general on this team. Somebody has to bring some energy, get his teammates fired up, and get the team playing mad. Northwestern has those kind of guys with Law and Pardon, and they are looking for revenge after last year’s beat down.
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