BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Indiana switched its defense just in time to cool Northwestern’s shooters.
Eric Gordon scored 29 points, D.J. White added 26 points and 13 rebounds, and the 11th-ranked Hoosiers used a zone defense much of the second half to beat the Wildcats 75-63 Sunday.
“It was hard to get them out of their offense,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Those kids are good players. At least in the zone, we could dictate where their shots were coming from.”
Once the Hoosiers went to the zone, Northwestern went more than nine minutes without a field goal, and Indiana pulled away to its 35th straight win at home against the Wildcats since 1968. The Hoosiers (18-3, 7-1 Big Ten) also snapped a two-game losing streak, but it wasn’t easy.
“In the second half, we played with a lot of energy and effort on defense,” Gordon said. “It’s obvious what we have to do.
“Their cuts were fast. They were cutting all kinds of directions. Their offense was clicking in the beginning, so we just had to make an adjustment.”
Northwestern (7-12, 0-8) never led, but twice rallied from eight-point deficits and cut Indiana’s lead to 52-50 with under 12 minutes to go. The Wildcats, who shot 64 percent in the first half, then went cold against the Indiana zone and did not get another field goal until a 3-pointer by Michael Thompson with just over two minutes remaining. By then, it was way too late.
“We missed a few. It gets contagious,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “All night, neither team looked like they were stopping each other. … Then we missed seven or eight, and that’s a lot against a good team on their home court.
“If we’re going to play with this team—and we did for 30-some minutes— you can’t have missed opportunities.”
Gordon, who had 17 points in the first half, had eight points during a 14-2 run that broke the game open.
Indiana took a 66-52 lead after a 3-pointer by Gordon, his sixth of the game, and one of two free throws by the freshman guard, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Northwestern, losing its 14th straight Big Ten game over two seasons, never came closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
With the 6-foot-9 White in the middle, Indiana dominated the rebounding 39-17. White, who shot 9-of-11 from the field, also had two blocks and a steal.
“Our game plan was to be aggressive on the offensive boards,” said White, whose six offensive rebounds helped give Indiana an 18-3 advantage in second-chance points. “We wanted to attack and when the guards take shots get the offensive rebounds.”
Northwestern cooled to 35 percent shooting in the second half and 48 percent for the game.
Craig Moore led the Wildcats with 17 points, and Jeremy Nash and Kevin Coble added 12 apiece.
Gordon, wearing a padded splint on his left wrist after a hard fall in practice Tuesday, had five 3-pointers in the first half, but the Hoosiers couldn’t pull away for good.
His fifth 3-pointer gave Indiana a 38-30 lead with two minutes left in the first half. But a basket by Moore and a 3-pointer by reserve Jason Okrzesik pulled the Wildcats within three, and after two free throws by Indiana’s Jamarcus Ellis, Nash scored on a fast break with a second remaining to make it 40-37 at halftime.
Northwestern closed within two points four times early in the second half before the Hoosiers began pulling away for good.
“When a team like Northwestern gets comfortable on offense, you just have to get them out of their comfort zone,” Sampson said.