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January 18, 2014

Hoosiers' offense stalls in home loss to Northwestern

BLOOMINGTON — This was how Indiana was supposed to look against Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Who knew Northwestern would be the one shutting down the Hoosiers’ offense?

The Hoosiers were held to their lowest scoring output since 2010 in Saturday’s 54-47 win by the Wildcats, who won their first Big Ten road game since last January.

Coming on the heels of Tuesday’s 75-72 win over No. 3 Wisconsin, the disappointment was evident among IU’s players and coach Tom Crean alike.

“We actually took a step back today,” said freshman Stanford Robinson. “We have to take a couple steps forward just to catch up to where we were.”

Where they were was one of the Big Ten’s better offenses. Not so after the Wildcats (9-10, 2-4) shut them down.

The Hoosiers shot just 19.4 percent (6-of-31) in the first half. They finished at 25 percent (15-of-60).

“They packed the paint,” Yogi Ferrell said. “It was kind of hard to get to the rim and attack.”

Not that the Hoosiers shouldn’t have expected that from the Wildcats.

“We knew there were going to be multiple defensive changes today, whether it be zone, whether it be sagging man. It’s not the first time Alex Olah sat in the paint,” Crean said. “And give them credit, they did a fantastic job.

“But we participated in it by settling, by not reversing the ball enough.”

Crean wasn’t pleased with the team’s veterans.’

“I’m not going to use the term leader, because I don’t think it appeared like there was a leader today,” Crean said. “But with guys who get the bulk of the attention, the shots, it affected us on the defensive end. We have a long way to go.”

Even with the offense unable to find its rhythm, the Hoosiers battled back. Down by nine points twice in the first half, trailing 22-19 at halftime, IU took a 36-35 lead on Evan Gordon’s 3-pointer with 7:39 to play.

Two free throws by Hanner Mosquera-Perea — chosen by Northwestern coach Chris Collins to go to the line after Will Sheehey was hurt while being fouled by Tre Demps — put IU ahead 38-35.

But Demps more than atoned for his mistake, scoring Northwestern’s next 13 points in a 13-4 run that clinched the win for the Wildcats.

Demps had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half but finished 6-of-12 for 15 points.

Collins never thought about benching the sophomore.

“[He] was getting good shots in the first half,” Collins said. “I kept telling him, ‘You’re getting great shots, you’re getting great shots.’ We need Tre to score. … Points are hard to come by for us. We need Tre to be a double-figure scorer for us.”

While Demps and Drew Crawford (17 points, 12 rebounds) were leading the way for the Wildcats, IU’s only double-digit scorer was Noah Vonleh, who also had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Ferrell, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 17.9 ppg, was held to nine points on 2-of-14 shooting on Saturday. Sheehey eventually came back into the game but scored just two points.

“We didn’t play our best game tonight and it showed,” Sheehey said.

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