Here's the box score. IU is 12-2 in the Big Ten, now in a three way tie for first place in the Big Ten (by 6 pm or so, either Wisconsin will be alone in first by a half-game or IU and Purdue will be the only co-leaders). Yet, I get the sense that if IU had played Northwestern 14 times IU's record would be worse. NU is 0-14 in the conference, but IU has struggled against NU in both matchups this year. In effective field goal percentage allowed, IU's two games against Northwestern have been the two worst of the season. In offensive efficiency, IU's 1.21 points per possession last night is the worst performance of the Big Ten season, and the game at home against Northwestern, in which IU allowed 1.12 PPP, is the third worst (the home loss to Wisconsin was second-worst). The pace of this game was a little quick for Northwestern, 67 possessions, but the high final score reflects poor defense more than a frenetic pace. IU really has struggled against both the backdoor cuts and NU's three point shooting this year. It sounds stupid to say about an 0-14 team, but I'm glad IU will not see these guys again.
Nevertheless, IU's offense was excellent, with the exception of too many turnovers. The Hoosiers shot 56 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc. IU rebounded 9 of its 21 misses and 26 of NU's 32 misses (that's NU's MO, but so be it). IU also excelled at getting to the line, shooting 30-37 to NU's 15-19. Still, for all that excellence on offense, the turnovers allowed Northwestern to stay in the game with its productive offense. Forcing turnovers is one of Northwestern's few fortes, but unfortunately, teams that are good at forcing turnovers (NU, Purdue, Minnesota) have really exploited that this year. IU, as a highly ranked team, should be dropping those teams' turnover percentages, not adding to them.
IU, of course, faced some significant off-the-court issues, to say the least. Dan Dakich, in his must-listen postgame comments, made clear that he never understood the absence of the players from the 6 p.m. practice to be any sort of boycott, and that all players attended the evening walk-through that took place during Rick Greenspan's press conference. Nevertheless, because of some quirks in the NCAA practice rules, IU didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. That means that IU played last night without so much as a "live" practice in which to prepare. Given NU's unorthodox approach, I'm happy with any sort of win.
Now, IU heads down the home stretch. IU plays Ohio State Tuesday night. The Buckeyes will have to deal with a rare 48 hour turnaround (they play Wisconsin at 4 pm today). On Sunday, IU plays at Michigan State, before finishing at home against Minnesota and on the road against Penn State. It seems likely that IU, Purdue, and Wisconsin will all finish either 16-2 or 15-3, but the final details are not yet resolved.