Balanced Northwestern beats Indiana again 78-61

  • Indiana's Jeremiah Rivers drives to the basket as Northwestern's Luka Mirkovic tries for the block during the first half Sunday.

    Indiana's Jeremiah Rivers drives to the basket as Northwestern's Luka Mirkovic tries for the block during the first half Sunday. Associated Press

 
 
Posted2/8/2010 12:01 AM

As Northwestern pursues the school's first NCAA Tournament bid, every positive data point counts in this historical chase.

In December, the Wildcats made their first appearance in the Associated Press rankings since 1959.

 

And Sunday, courtesy of their 78-61 victory over Indiana at sold-out Welsh-Ryan Arena, these Wildcats earned the program's first back-to-back Big Ten wins of 15 points or more since March 1958.

Northwestern (16-7, 5-6) seized a 13-2 lead in the opening six minutes and led by at least 9 the rest of the way.

Led by John Shurna's 16 points, all five Wildcats starters scored in double figures. Every starter contributed at least 2 assists and 1 block as well.

"I thought the ball movement was great. I thought the guys were moving great," said NU coach Bill Carmody. "Today I just thought it was a real team effort. I was just really proud. I enjoyed watching it."

As for Indiana coach Tom Crean? Not so much.

NU drilled 8 of 11 three-point attempts in the opening 23 minutes as Indiana's youngsters didn't get hands in the shooters' faces.

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Shurna, who entered the game with 27 3-pointers in 10 Big Ten games, drilled 5 of his first 6 three-point tries.

"I think you're so worried about the back-cutting in the system, you lose sight of the fact that they're so good shooting the ball," Crean said. "There's too many times this year when we're like swiss cheese: We've got too many holes in what we're trying to get done. And that doesn't work."

As impressive as the Wildcats were offensively, Carmody felt his team's defensive effort mattered more in the grand scheme of things.

The Wildcats have known all year they can count on their 1-3-1 zone trap, but they'd prefer to stay in their matchup zone and save the trap for occasional shock value.

Against Indiana, which relied on sophomore Verdell Jones III (28 points, 6 assists) to do so much, the Wildcats needed the 1-3-1 for just a handful of possessions.

Shurna received credit for 3 of NU's 9 blocks as the Hoosiers (9-13, 3-7) shot just 35 percent.

"I liked our defense," Carmody said. "That (matchup) defense has to be good for us to be good."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With convincing back-to-back wins over Michigan and Indiana, the Wildcats are in danger of reaching the .500 mark in Big Ten play this late in the season for the first time since 2004.

NU travels on Wednesday to Iowa - where it hasn't won since 2004 - before hosting Minnesota on Sunday.

On paper, the Wildcats should take both games and further improve their NCAA resume.

Carmody said it's an unspoken thing within the team that the Wildcats need a long winning streak, but senior guard Jeremy Nash doesn't buy it.

"People are going to say different things," Nash said. "Some Web sites might not have us rated to the Tournament. Some might. That's why I don't try to look at it like that. I just try to put it on our shoulders like we have our own fate in our own hands."