Hoosiers impressed by Northwestern’s defense

Northwestern’s offense is far from the Big Ten’s most potent, and it isn’t even among the most sophisticated anymore as it was before Bill Carmody was fired. The Wildcats have switched to a more motion-based offense with more freedom under first-year coach Chris Collins and it hasn’t exactly taken yet. Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten in both scoring (62.4 points per game) and field goal percentage (.399).

What the Wildcats do have going for them, however, is a defense that smothers the paint and makes it near impossible for opponents to find any kind of offensive flow. They are allowing just 64.6 points per game this season, good for sixth in the conference. They rank fourth in the Big Ten so far in scoring defense in Big Ten play, giving up 68.0 points per conference game.

“They’re a very good help-side defensive basketball team,” IU assistant coach Kenny Johnson said. “They’re a team that hopes to force teams into relying on shooting from the perimeter. They’ve been packing it in, but more than packing it in, they’ve been doing a good job of playing without fouling. They’ll get you, you’ll get into the paint and they’ll wall up on you. They’ll make sure they’re in good defensive rebounding position. I’m sure in the tradition of what coach Collins has been at Duke, they’re a great defensive communicating team. They do a good job of helping each other out.” 

The Wildcats don’t use the 1-3-1 zone that Carmody so often used, but they often bring in various other types of zone, including a 2-3, to make them difficult to drive on.

“They try to control the pace,” IU senior guard Evan Gordon said. “They try to slow it down. They slowed the ball down against Michigan State. They beat Illinois. They’re a team that is going to come out and be ready to play and play their way.”

So much like on Tuesday, that puts them in a situation where they have to establish their fast pace against a team that isn’t interested in running at all and to try to drive the basketball on a team that is emphatic about not giving up penetration. The Hoosiers found it surprisingly easy to get the ball inside against Wisconsin, but don’t expect it to find that this time.

“The new emphasis they have on their defensive intensity and attention to detail is going to come in here and present a challenge,” Johnson said. “Not only to us but for the rest of the year in the Big Ten. These guys are focused on packing it in and causing teams to have low field goal percentage on their offensive end.”

The Hoosiers will still try to get what they can off the dribble, but they will also continue to hone in on taking turnovers down. The Hoosiers still have the most turnovers in the conference with 15.7 per game, but they only gave it away nine times against Wisconsin.

“The team as a whole has taken a stand on not turning the ball over,” Gordon said. “We make us older guys, we just make sure that the turnovers we have in practice are highlighted and not overlooked as much.”

17 comments

  1. Not sure how to phrase this, but I can’t shake the feeling that tomorrow’s game is every bit as important as Tuesday’s. As big as a road win vs a top five team would be, a loss at home to a poorly regarded NW could conversely be just as damaging. Perception-wise, we can afford a loss at MSU– provided of course we don’t get blown out by a short-handed team. What we can’t afford is to suffer a defeat on our home court that most think we should win handily. I’m sure I’ll catch a lot of flak for this, but tomorrow’s game makes me much, much more nervous. MSU?

  2. We’re not going to lose to Northwestern. Bank it. They have struggled might imply, and beat a ranked Illinois team, but a team clearly in a severe rut. I hope your not nervous for real. Waste of energy. Save it for MSU.

  3. Oddly, not nervous for MSU. I guess it’s the proverbial “got nothin to lose” mentality. Not that I think it’s a lost cause, or that we couldn’t possibly pull it out even if Payne does play, but anything other than a moral victory from a close game is just a bonus in my mind.

    NW on the other hand has potential disaster written all over it. It’s a trap game, if you will, between two powerhouse matchups. We could easily get caught looking ahead. And if their defense is as advertised– I haven’t seem them play, so I can only go off what I read– and they turn us into a jump-shooting team, that does not typically bode well for us.

    Do I think we win? Yes. Do I also think I’m going to need a lot of antacids? Absolutely.

  4. Crawford isn’t shooting too well this year, and Collins has his hands full with this team. I think Collins will turn it around, but just think IU will be too much for this squad. I also believe the statement win against Wisconsin will fuel this team even more.

    I sure Tums will appreciate your increase of sales. 🙂

  5. However, if we did just happen to lose, I see the point your trying to make. It would be a fat disaster, and humiliating as well, considering NWS will be close to a cellar team this year.

  6. I agree insomuch that I think we finally turned the corner. Most of our worst basketball is behind us. We still have a young team who will make mistakes, and we’ll have some stretches that make you want to throw your remote through the TV. (We’re also prone to letting some guy on the other side have a career night. I’m not a strong enough basketball mind to diagnose if it’s something in our defensive execution, but a guy like Crawford [or Rayvonte Rice, or Traevon Jackson, or some walk-on from Butler…] always seems to have the game of his life vs IU. In a low-scoring affair, that could be deadly.) But I think the positives will outweigh the negatives more and more, and we’ll continue to see a better basketball team overall.

    What I’d like to see is Hollowell make his return in a big way. I’m curious to see how he responds to the pine time. He’s obviously got the talent to be a big time contributor, if he can just keep his head where the sun shines. That doesn’t mean I want him to come out and start jacking up shots. I want to see him do the little things. Like take care of the ball. Rebound. Defend. Scrap for some loose balls. Show some passion. I want to see him compete. He could be a difference maker, and I’d love to see him win back the hearts of the Hoosier faithful.

    I’m going to do my best Harvard impression here and make a bold prediction. Our guys are going to play sluggish and sloppy tomorrow. Crean makes a bold move and puts Hollowell in the game, who sparks us to victory. 61-54. If we lose, you can blame me.

  7. I hope the same with JH. As I said before, a punishment can be a positive thing, if it clearly has sank in, and admit to it. I’ve read over and over where JH could “light it up” in high school, and waiting for him to do the same at IU as well.

    As far as career nights, Rob Wi,son of Wisconsin still gives me nightmares. We didn’t know what to do with him! Good commentary. Enjoy the game.

  8. Usually I get very nervous about games like this… As P said, a trap game in the classic sense. However, despite this team’s inconsistency and youth, I feel oddly optimistic about the game this afternoon. I think we have found something with the new line-up… I think we have found a new twist with Vonleh as a perimeter threat… I think we have a budding contributor in Stanford, whose activity and defense create production even if he isn’t scoring double-figures (kinda like Dipo his soph year)… I think Crean has actually found a new voice – more stern, less cheerleadery – and is coaching like his job is on the line.

    I’m not sure that JH will be a contributor today. We have found a rhythm without him. We got the UW monkey off our back without him. I think the only way we see him is if we really struggle or really dominate.

    I am expecting a 12 point win (which doesn’t really fall into either category). That will put us over .500 in the B1G (and ahead of OSU in the standings!).

  9. It’s a real possibility he starts in front of Troy, but I have a feeling that it’s just that he gets far more minutes and plays more at the end of the game. Starting isn’t that big a deal except for fragile egos…. Minutes and crunch time are what count.

  10. Sorry Punjab. You obviously have a better basketball mind then I do. Don’t ever listen to me anymore, when I say bank it. I’m embarrassed…

  11. Gentlemen, this is what we all meant when we said this season will be a roller-coaster. I’m gonna go all cliche here and say that from here on, the only thing certain about this team is uncertainty. Hopefully this means we blow out Sparty on their home turf. But in the immortal words of Brandt: “Well, Dude, we just don’t know.”

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