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Indiana 68, Northwestern 66: Three things

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The Hoosiers survive a scare from Northwestern on a sleepy Saturday afternoon.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers survived a scare on Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall, defeating Northwestern 68-66 despite trailing several times throughout the second half, including as late as the 2:06 mark. Overcoming five offensive fouls, which helped lead to the Wildcats taking 12 more shots in the contest, and woeful shooting from the three-point line (3-for-11) and the charity stripe (11-for-19, including four straight misses in the final few minutes), the Hoosiers were able to notch an early Big Ten victory.

Romeo Langford led the Hoosiers’ offensive output with 20 points. He also nabbed five boards. Juwan Morgan scored 17 of his own, and added 12 rebounds. No other Hoosiers were in double figures, nor recorded more than 3 rebounds.

For Northwestern, it was the Dererk Pardon show, as the Wildcats’ big man went 11-for-15 from the field and scored 24 points while tallying 10 rebounds.

Here are the three things that stood out:

  • It was ugly and won’t leave anyone feeling good, but it was huge. There are plenty of things to be concerned with going forward, the least of which being that Indiana needs someone other Morgan and Langford to contribute. But this was a big win for two reasons that may not spring to mind in the immediate aftermath of a lackluster performance. First, it was a conference win. Say what you will about how the Hoosiers got it done, but they are 1-0 in Big Ten play and in a league that looks to have four or five legitimate title contenders, home wins are critical. By the end of the year, this one may be the one we can all point at as the one that was the difference between winning the league or not, or getting a double bye in the conference tournament or not. Second — and to me, this cannot be overstated — this is a game that they would have lost in the last three season unless Notre Dame was the club on the other bench. Can you count the number of times in the past few years that the Hoosiers have been in a rock fight like the one they played today and ended up on the wrong end of things? With the youth on this team, the fact that they were able to pull out a win shows a maturity or will that previous Indiana teams haven’t had.
  • Please, don’t be hurt, Juwan. Juwan Morgan left the game with just under four minutes remaining with what appeared to be a right leg injury. He limped out of the lane as the clubs went to their benches for the TV timeout, but crumbled before he could get to the sideline. When television returned from break, Morgan was still not to the bench and the entirety of Indiana’s medical staff was with him at half-court. Needless to say, losing Morgan for any time whatsoever would make things tough on Indiana. They have important conference and résumé contests coming up with Penn State, Butler, and Louisville before they face a couple cupcakes before playing out the rest of the conference schedule. If Morgan is unable to play in those, the Hoosiers could be missing a big opportunity to grab some nice wins. If he’s out for even longer, it’s hard to say whether this is even an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. The bottom line is that the Hoosiers need Morgan healthy and available.
  • The offense needs to tighten the screws. Today marked the fifth consecutive game that the Hoosiers have had more turnovers (13, today) than assists (9, a season low). It’s no coincidence that Indiana is just 3-2 in those games and won none of them easily — not even against UT Arlington or UC Davis. A combination of some lazy passes and moving screens did Indiana in today in the turnover battle, both of which can be fixed. But the issue is certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.

BONUS THING:

The jerseys Indiana is wearing suck. Whether the idea to make the change to the “ice” jerseys permanently (or hopefully just for one season?) was Fred’s, Archie’s, or Adidas’s, it was a grave mistake. The program shouldn’t abandon tradition at all when it comes to the look it puts on the floor. The candystripes, the warmups, and classic uniforms were, really, the only thing tying today’s version of Indiana basketball to the better days of the past. But the program definitely shouldn’t have abandoned any part of the look for something that looks like a generic create-a-school look from NCAA March Madness 2003 with no trim and a generic font. They’re an eyesore. Bring back the classics.