Indiana enters Sunday’s game against Northwestern seeking its third straight Big Ten win. A win for the Hoosiers against the Wildcats would propel them to 4-2 in the conference and all alone in fifth place.
Northwestern is trying to make back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time ever, but their best win of the season came last time out against KenPom No. 69 Minnesota 83-60. A win for the Wildcats would bring their record back to .500 in the conference at 3-3, making this game extremely important for both teams.
Here’s what to watch for in today’s matchup.
Contain the 3-point Arc
Northwestern isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, but can easily get going from deep if Indiana lets them. The Wildcats are eighth in the Big Ten shooting 36-percent from beyond the arc this season and recently they’ve found their stroke.
Averaging nearly nine made 3-pointers a game, Northwestern has made at least 11 3-pointers in six of their last nine games. When they make double digit three’s in a game Northwestern has a record of 6-2.
Indiana’s 3-point defensive struggles have been well documented thus far; especially after allowing both Indiana State and Fort Wayne both make 17 deep balls in a game. IU has allowed opponents to shoot nearly 39-percent from beyond the arc all season, but have faired better the last two games.
After the Minnesota shot 50-percent in the first half against IU, the Hoosiers contained them to two-for-nine from deep in the second half, enabling the win in Minneapolis.
Penn State went six-14 from deep Tuesday. Although PSU still wound up shooting 42-percent, the 14 3-point attempts were the lowest amount Indiana has allowed in a game this season.
The 3-point shooting struggles for IU doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon, so holding their own defensively on the 3-point line is key moving forward.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 13, 2018
Even without De’Ron Davis, Indiana still has the edge in rebounding against Northwestern. Head coach Archie Miller said moving forward the success for his team starts and stops with rebounding.
“We rebounded really well in the last couple games, and from an offensive rebounding perspective, that’s given us as much of an added punch as anything,” Miller said. “Guys just continuing to work with great motor, different guys contributing on the glass, and one of the big reasons why we beat Penn State was the second opportunities we had, the amount of second-chance baskets. I thought it was good against Minnesota.”
IU has combined to out-rebound their opponents by 15 the last two games, but more importantly they have a +16 advantage on the offensive glass in that span as well. The Hoosiers will have to keep tabs on Derek Pardon down low as he’s averaging almost nine rebounds a game in conference play and grabs offensive rebounds 13-percent of the time.
Miller is calling on the guards to make a difference on the glass with Davis out and so far the last two games they’ve delivered. Robert Johnson is averaging six rebounds a game in the last two while Zach McRoberts has pulled down 6.5 boards in that span as well.
Contain Bryant McIntosh
When Bryant McIntosh goes, Northwestern goes. That was evident last game when McIntosh dished out 16 assists and committed zero turnovers in their 23-point win against Minnesota. Going up against the Hoosiers is always extra special for the Greensburg, Indiana native and last season he caused havoc in both games against IU.
Last year Northwestern defeated IU by 13 in Evanston and McIntosh had 21 points and eight assists. On senior day at home, IU was able to pull off a late win against the Wildcats by one, but McIntosh still put up 22 points.
Johnson will most likely be the one guarding McIntosh, which is helpful because this is now the fourth year in a row they’ll be going up against each other. IU has to keep him off the free throw line as well as he’s shooting 94-percent from the stripe this season.