Northwestern will try for consecutive wins over a ranked team for just the second time in school history when they host Indiana Sunday. The last time they accomplished the feat was nearly four years ago to the day. The Wildcats defeated number 18 Minnesota 74-65 on January 18, 2009 at home and then won 70-63 at number seven Michigan State January 21, 2009.
The Wildcats had a surprisingly easy 78-64 victory at Illinois on Thursday. Reggie Heard rebounded from a poor night at Iowa to lead five Wildcats in double figures. Hearn scored 20 very efficient points to lead NU to victory. Northwestern jumped out early and was never seriously threatened in the second half.
Indiana is coming off a 64-59 upset loss at home to Wisconsin. The 59 points were the Hoosiers lowest output of the season. They shot only 37 percent from the floor and 25 percent on threes.
Cody Zeller was the only IU player that was effective. He finished with 23 points and ten rebounds. Zeller shot nine of 15 from the floor, while his teammates made just 11 of 39. IU entered the Wisconsin game as the highest scoring team in the country. The Badgers held them 36 points below their season average. It was IU’s first game of the season below 60. The had failed to reached 70 twice before losing to the Badgers.
IU is the only team in the Big Ten with five players averaging in double figures. Zeller leads the way with 16.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG.
For the first time in recent memory, Northwestern has some size to combat Zeller inside. Although he’s struggled shooting the ball (4-18, nine points in his last four games), the 7’0 freshman has continued to be strong on the boards (5.0 RPG, last four g’s). Graduate Student Jared Swopshire also gives the Wildcats a presence up front.
After being one of the Big Ten’s top scoring teams the last few seasons, NU has fallen off significantly this season. Drew Crawford’s injury and JerShon Cobb’s suspension have hurt the Wildcats depth.
After wins at Baylor and Illinois, a win sunday would significantly boost NU’s quest for a continued school record five straight postseasons.
The game will tipoff at Noon Sunday on the Big Ten Network and WGN Radio 720.