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What we learned: Indiana 71, Northwestern 56


David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

1. What a difference some defense makes. The knock on this team all season has been its defense. This has been very fair criticism of the team, who has often played lackadaisically on that side of the ball. But tonight, they held the Wildcats to 56 points, after letting them score 72 last time that the two teams played. Amazingly, the Hoosiers also held the Wildcats under 1 PPP, which is pretty remarakable for the defensively-challenged team. In the postgame from the first game, Tom Crean praised Tre Demps, and you could tell that IU was focused on locking him down tonight. In addition, Indiana was all over the glass, outrebounding Northwestern 42-24, and also finished with 6 total blocks and 5 total steals. The Hoosier defense was especially on display early in the first half, as IU went on a 21-1 run between 18:40 and 9:13 in the opening period.

2. James Blackmon, Jr. is still pretty good. JBJ has been ragged on recently because of his inconsistent shooting and his lack of effort on defense. But tonight he was on his game shooting the ball, finishing with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, and going 5-for-10 from downtown and 8-for-15 overall. I was especially impressed with his defensive effort tonight in the first half. Going forward, the Hoosiers will need this type of performance from the former Burger Boy if they want to continue making noise.

3. #THREESWISHMAFIA BACK. The Hoosiers only made one-third of their threes tonight, but Northwestern gave them a ton of chances, and the Hoosiers capitalized. In total, they made 11 three-pointers, and while it wasn't quite a "live and die by the 3" performance, it was very necessary for the offense, which still looked stagnant at times during the game.

4. Get well, Hanner. UGGGHHHH.

HMP of course missed a month earlier this season with a knee injury, and it looks like he may have re-aggravated it when Alex Olah basically fell on top of him. Olah was guarding against Robert Johnson at the time, even though he has a good 100 pounds on RoJo. Of course Northwestern coach Chris Collins is a Duke alum, and it looked from Olah like a Duke-esque flop that we used to see regularly from guys like Greg Paulus back in the late 2000s in Cameron Indoor Stadium about 20 times a game. My guess is that HMP will have to miss some time, but before we fret, remember that the Hoosiers beat Penn State, Illinois, and Maryland all in a row without him. So all is not lost. And after HMP went down, Emmitt Holt stepped up, and had a nice game of his own with 8 points and 4 boards.

It looks like the Hoosiers may have earned themselves at least a play-in game berth tonight, but they are still definitely on the bubble at 20-12 on the season. Next up: Maryland. Same time, same place tomorrow night.