Men’s Basketball: Shorthanded Wildcats can’t get past Hoosiers


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore center Alex Olah, who almost missed Saturday’s game with two sprained ankles, tries to muscle some space from his Indiana defender. Olah had his first double-double of the season against the Hoosiers, despite being tagged by their defense for most of the game.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Northwestern’s highly ranked defense continued its relapse Saturday in a 61-56 loss to Indiana.

In January and early February, NU (12-16, 5-10 Big Ten) built a new brand of basketball with stellar defense and patient offense during its hot streak. But after the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8) posted 1.11 points per possession Saturday, the Cats have allowed 1.15 points per trip in their last four games.

Indiana’s offense opened the second half red hot while NU’s stalled. The Hoosiers built a 32-30 lead at halftime into a 45-34 lead at the 11:51 mark.

The Cats chipped away at the foul line over the next three minutes, cutting their deficit to 6.

Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey led a 7-3 spurt to bump the lead back to 10, but NU did not shy away.

“A lot of teams would have laid down at that point,” coach Chris Collins said. “We were getting tired, but we battled.”

The Cats clung within 4 after sophomore Tre Demps netted a floater with 2:21 to go. Demps finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-14 shooting.

Sheehey then served a dagger in the final minute with a 3-pointer from the left wing, putting Indiana ahead 59-51.

Sophomore center Alex Olah kept the Cats close in the first half with 12 points on 5-8 shooting. He nearly missed the game with two sprained ankles.

Olah scored nine of the team’s first 12 points, but Indiana made him a non-factor offensively the rest of the way.

Olah finished with only 17 points but grabbed 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

“The guy’s been in a walking boot — not on one foot but both,” Collins said. “For him to be able to come out like that, it shows the growth he’s made over the course of the season.”

Olah said Indiana coach Tom Crean also told him about his improvement after the game.

“It’s the hard work I put in with (assistant) coach (Brian) James and coach Collins,” Olah said. “They’ve instilled a lot of confidence in me.”

Despite the loss, Collins said he remains very proud of his undermanned team.

Aside from Olah’s ankle injury, junior guard JerShon Cobb was out with a foot injury. Collins said Cobb is out indefinitely. Senior forward Nikola Cerina also missed the outing after an altercation in NU’s game Wednesday at Ohio State.

“They’ve got a guy (Noah Vonleh) who’s going to be a top-10 pick in this year’s draft,” Collins said of the Hoosiers. “They’ve got Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey. They’ve got athlete after athlete after athlete. And we’ve got six guys. But we just battled.”

The depleted roster led Collins to start Demps for the first time this season, and the sophomore played all 40 minutes, a season-high for a regulation game. Demps said he did not have a problem with logging more minutes.

“Whatever the team needs,” he said. “Right now the team needs that. We’re one less guard without JerShon. We’re limited with ball handlers. If (playing more) is what coach needs me to do, then that’s what I’m willing to do.”

Crean said he is impressed with the job Collins and his staff have done in their first year at NU.

“They are doing such a great job making their team better, making them believe,” Crean said. “That’s what makes this league so hard, but it also makes the wins so gratifying.”

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