Coming off of a disappointing road loss to Maryland on Saturday and losers of two straight, returning home against a struggling Northwestern team seemed to be just what Indiana needed to get back on track.
In the end, the Hoosiers got all of the Wildcats that they wanted.
It was nearly too much.
Indiana overcame a 10 point second half deficit with a rally over the game’s last 12 minutes to secure a 66-62 win over the Wildcats at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. A 26-12 run to close out the game gave IU a much needed win over the Big Ten’s only team without a win.
“Big Ten win. Doesn’t matter how you get it, but they’re all hard,” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “And I think it showed tonight. Obviously Northwestern’s really a well-coached team that executes and does their stuff. And they were able to execute on us for a really good portion of the game and they made it hard on us.”
Early on it looked the Hoosiers might cruise to their 12th win of the season.
IU went up by as many as ten points at 29-19 with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half. Al Durham and Trayce Jackson-Davis scored Indiana’s first 12 points of the game.
And then like so many other times in recent weeks, it happened.
The Hoosiers seemed to lose focus and let Northwestern charge back, as the Wildcats finished the opening half on a 15-2 run to take a 34-31 lead at the break.
Indiana continued their struggles from the field early, making just 10-of-25 shots overall and just 3-of-10 from three point range in the first half.
As the deficit swelled early in the second half, IU got back to doing what they have done best this season — attack the basket and draw fouls.
IU attempted 19 second half free throws while only attempting 4 shots from three-point range.
While the Hoosiers didn’t shoot any better from the field in the second half (10-of-29), a 15-for-19 effort after the break from the charity stripe saved the day.
Miller also credited better effort on the defensive end down the stretch as Indiana allowed only four field goals in the game’s final 12 minutes.
“Once it got going, I thought we played a little harder,” Miller said. “We had a group out that competed, made a lot of hustle plays. There was a lot of deflected balls. We got in transition and were able to make the game, obviously, tight.”
Indiana’s defense held Northwestern scoreless over a 6:32 timeframe during their second half run.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
The Hoosiers coughed the ball up 16 times compared to 11 assists. Better passing was an area of emphasis coming into the game based on Miller’s comments earlier in the week, and IU clearly still has work to do in that regard.
For the game, IU shot 23-of-30 (76.7 percent), from the free-throw line. above their season average of 68.7 percent.
Indiana continued to struggle from beyond the arc, making only 3-of-14, or 21.4 percent. IU shot just 37 percent overall from the field.
The Hoosiers had three players in double figures for the game. Jackson-Davis led the way with 21 points and chipped in 7 rebounds, while Justin Smith finished with 18 points and Durham had 16.
Joey Brunk had 12 rebounds. That is his fourth straight game in double figures on the boards.
As a team the Hoosiers outrebounded Northwestern 40-29, including 15-5 on the offensive glass.
Indiana (12-3, 2-2) hosts No. 11 Ohio State in a Big Ten conference matchup. The game tips off at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 11.
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