Men’s Basketball: Northwestern withstands late charge, buries Hoosiers for fourth straight win


Luke Vogelzang/The Daily Northwestern

Chris Collins celebrates a big play. The head coach was in good spirits following a fourth consecutive win for the Wildcats.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

When Indiana cut Northwestern’s 14-point lead to 8 with 2:12 left, some may have been reminded of when the Wildcats lost control of a 14-point advantage against Maryland in January and fell to the Terrapins in the final seconds.

But coach Chris Collins was not looking into the past.

“I’m done with flashbacks,” Collins said.

This time, the Cats (14-14, 5-10 Big Ten) withstood their opponent’s run. Indiana (19-10, 9-7) trimmed the score to 70-65  in the final minute, but NU survived with two free throws and then a defensive stop on the game’s final possession for a 72-65 victory.

NU wiped its slate clean after a 68-44 home loss Feb. 10, its 10th straight defeat at the time. There’s new music playing during practice, a new defensive strategy and a new mindset.

Since hitting the reset button, the Cats have won four straight games, their first such Big Ten winning streak since the 1966-67 season.

Right now, we’re thinking about being 4-0,” Collins said. “That’s where we are since we started fresh.”

The new mentality was clear from the start of Wednesday’s game.

When Indiana punched Northwestern in the mouth, the Wildcats punched right back, beginning a back and forth first half.

“The guys are confident,” Collins said. “There’s nothing like winning.”

The Cats’ 2-3 zone dared the Hoosiers to shoot jumpers, and Indiana accepted. In the first half, the road squad buried 9-of-14 from 3-point range.

Despite the barrage from downtown, NU and Indiana went into halftime tied at 40.

The Cats didn’t panic and stuck with its defensive strategy, and the decision worked out. The Hoosiers made just 3-of-17 from deep in the second period, and as a result their 3-ball-dependent offense stalled.

“I thought we were a little more active, but I also thought they got cold,” Collins said. “The shots they were making in the first half, they just went dry a little bit.”

Collins and junior guard Tre Demps credited freshman forward Vic Law, freshman guard Scottie Lindsey and sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn for making the difference with their defense on the wings of the zone.

“The wings were doing an unbelievable job talking, getting out to the corner shooters, guarding the short corner,” Demps said. “They made the guards’ jobs really easy.”

By the latter part of the second half, NU had Indiana on the ropes.

After Troy Williams’ layup for Indiana cut NU’s lead to 49-48 with 13:23 left, Indiana did not score another point until the 3:17 mark. During that 10-minute stretch, NU poured in 13 unanswered points to take complete control of the game.

“I just said to the team at halftime, whatever team kind of has an extended series of stops is going to win this game,” Collins said, “because both teams are in such an offensive rhythm.”

Demps took control with 16 of his 23 points coming in the second stanza.

And when the Hoosiers made their late run, NU stayed calm and focused.

“We just got in the huddle and said we’ve got to stop this,” said junior center Alex Olah, who had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “Eliminate turnovers and finish this game.”

The Cats did just that, but their eyes are already set on getting a fifth win in a row Saturday at Illinois.

“We’re hungry,” Demps said. “We’re not satisfied with where we’re at.”

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