Hoosiers new bottom-feeders of the Big Ten

By Etheria Modacure

After losing its first three Big Ten conference games, the Northwestern University Wildcats got a much-needed victory over the Indiana University Hoosiers, 93-81, on Jan. 9.

The Wildcats used a balanced offensive attack to force the Hoosiers out of its defensive position that yielded easy baskets. The Wildcats outscored the Hoosiers 20-12 in the paint, and ended the game with 34 total points in the post.

The Wildcats forced them into eight turnovers and scored seven points off Hoosiers’ mistakes.

“We did not play disciplined [basketball] at all,” said Hoosiers Head Coach Tom Crean. “We don’t practice this way.”

Crean said his team put enough pressure on the Wildcats to make more shots from the field, as opposed to getting easy layups and backdoor cuts to the basket.

He also referenced how immature his team played in the first half when they were down by 14 points. Crean said the team’s ability to come back in the second half from a 24-point deficit should’ve been present earlier in the game.

Four Wildcats scored in double-figures against the Hoosiers including center Luka Mirkovic. He had a double-double against the Hoosiers with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Mirkovic’s presence in the paint helped the Wildcats get better chances behind the arc where they shot 5 percent for the game.

“We were able to throw the ball down to [Mirkovic], and I thought that established an inside game for us,” said Wildcats Head Coach Bill Carmody. “Some of our games came around and made some shots.”

Carmody said it was important to create a post presence early in a game to get great opportunities for other players to make wide-open shots.

During one stretch in the second half, the Wildcats made three consecutive three-point field goals after netting three layups.

Crean said Mirkovic was tougher in the paint than his team and got easy shots and rebounds. He said the Hoosiers need to learn how to play a complete game of basketball quickly. The Hoosiers are 0-4 in Big Ten conference play.

Mirkovic said even when Carmody calls for the basketball to be passed to the post area, it doesn’t mean he has to score every time. He said it opens up the offense to have the ability to make easier shots on the perimeter.

“Coach [Carmody] feels if we have a good inside-out game, it’s going to help us a lot,” Mirkovic said. “I play with terrific shooters.”

Wildcats players John Shurna and Mirkovic noted the rise in intensity during practice after the team’s 25-point loss to the University of Illinois Fighting Illini on Jan. 6 in Champaign, Ill. Mirkovic said it was important for the team to have a good practice after their loss to the Fighting Illini.

For Shurna, his effort against the Hoosiers was special given he has been limited the past few games and his easy shot attempts were not hitting the bottom of the net. Shurna led all scorers with 24 points.

Shurna didn’t make any excuses for his poor performances in the team’s previous three games. He said he’s been trying to practice shooting through the pain in his left ankle.