Now losers of four straight games, the Indiana Hoosiers (12-6, 3-4) will look to get back on track when they travel to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (11-7, 2-4) on Tuesday night.
Indiana won the first match-up between these two teams, pulling away late to squeeze out a 68-66 win in Assembly Hall. Northwestern will be looking to avenge the loss, and they will get the Hoosiers during their worst stretch of the season.
Northwestern is led by the senior duo of Dererk Pardon and Vic Law, and Northwestern tends to go as they do offensively. Pardon gave Indiana all they could handle in their first match-up, racking up 24 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 11-of-15 from the field. Indiana has had trouble matching up with low post scorers this season, and Pardon will look to expose that weakness once again. Law is the leading scorer for the Wildcats on the season, putting up 16.6 points along with 6.5 rebounds per game on the season. Indiana was able to keep Law relatively in-check during the first match-up, but he has been a much more effective player at home this season, averaging 18.5 points per game at home versus just 9.0 per game on the road.
A.J. Turner and Ryan Taylor will fill out the wings for the Wildcats, but both have struggled to find their shooting touch so far this season. Taylor has shot just 37.1% on the season with Turner coming in at just 36.2% from the field for Northwestern. The duo does possess extremely impressive size, with Taylor and Turner both coming in at 6-foot-7. Their size and length could cause serious issues for an Indiana offense who’s struggled mightily of late.
Sophomore guard Anthony Gaines will round out the starting five for the Wildcats, and he has also struggled to find a rhythm from the field, shooting just 38.2% on the season. Indiana will still need to find him on the perimeter, however, as Gaines is shooting 42.9% from behind the arc.
On paper, this looks like a match-up Indiana can have success in. Two of the Hoosiers biggest problems so far this season have been turnovers and giving up offensive rebounds, and Northwestern struggles in both areas. The Wildcats rank just 13th in the Big Ten in offensive rebound percentage, and they come in at 10th in the conference in turnovers forced. Indiana is also prone to giving up free throws at a high rate, yet the Wildcats sit at just 9th in the conference in free throw rate.
With Indiana’s recent struggles, a conference road game will never be an easy task. Indiana must come out with a higher intensity level than we’ve seen from them in recent games. The team matches up favorably with the Wildcats on paper, but they must execute the game plan on the court. It’s also important for the Hoosiers to not overlook the Wildcats, as a home game against the #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines awaits the team on Friday night.