GAME NOTES: The Indiana Hoosiers will try to end a three-game slide as they battle the Northwestern Wildcats in Big Ten Conference action at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The Hoosiers were scheduled to return to action on Tuesday, but their matchup versus Iowa was postponed after a piece of the ceiling fell into the lower bowl of the Assembly Center hours prior to tip off. The delay gave Indiana a little extra time to reflect on the 82-62 loss it suffered at Purdue last Saturday. Coach Tom Crean's team has fallen to a 14-11 overall record including a 4-8 mark in the conference standings with its current skid. The Hoosiers have been outscored by an average of 2.9 ppg in Big Ten games.
Coach Chris Collins's first year at the helm of the program began to show some promise a few weeks ago, but the Wildcats have stumbled in their last four outings to a 12-15 overall ledger. Northwestern's lack of offensive weapons hurt it once again on Wednesday in its 76-60 loss at Ohio State. In conference play, the Wildcats are netting a league-worst 55 ppg on 38.3 percent efficiency from the field.
Northwestern's wins in Big Ten play have come courtesy of strong defensive showings. The Wildcats stifled Indiana at Assembly Hall on Jan. 18 en route to a 54-47 decision. The Hoosiers were held to 25 percent shooting from the field and hit on only 4-of-18 attempts from beyond the arc in the contest. Indiana still owns a commanding, 111-48, all-time series lead over Northwestern.
Indiana could not get anything going offensively versus the Boilermakers last week. The Hoosiers connected on just 32.2 percent of their field goal tries including an 8-of-23 clip from behind the 3-point line and finished with just eight assists against 14 turnovers. Sophomore guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell accounted for 27 of the team's 64 points on 6-of-17 efficiency from the floor, while freshman forward Noah Vonleh posted 14 points and six rebounds. Will Sheehey rounded out Indiana's double-digit scorers with 10 points. Ferrell is the top scorer among Big Ten players in league games with 19.2 ppg and is also dealing out 3.9 apg to rank sixth in the conference. Vonleh has been honored as the conference Freshman of the Week seven times and recorded a Big 10-best 10 double-doubles.
The Hoosiers had no answer for sophomore guard Tre Demps when they hosted Northwestern in Bloomington. Demps scored 13 of his 15 points over the final 6:31 of the low-scoring affair to propel the Wildcats to the victory. Demps, who had 14 points this week against the Buckeyes, is the team's third-leading scorer off the bench with 10.9 ppg. Senior swingman Drew Crawford is the go- to- guy for Northwestern with averages of 15.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg, while JerShon Cobb contributes 12.2 ppg. Crawford pumped in 22 points in Columbus, but the Wildcats were outrebounded, 34-23. Nikola Cerina (1.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg) was ejected with 5:24 left to play for participating in a scuffle between the teams and is suspended for Saturday's contest.
Although Indiana is not a contender to win the Big Ten title this season, it still has plenty of talent. The Hoosiers' key players are both underclassmen, which explains their inconsistency. The Wildcats are fading fast. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic for the future under Collins, but Northwestern has been overmatched in league play.
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