Saturday marked the Hoosiers’ highest point total this season, fueled by 48.1 percent field goal shooting.
IU also had its lowest amount of shots taken – 52. Freshman forwards Christian Watford and Derek Elston were the most efficient, shooting 5 of 7 from the field. Watford finished tied for the most points with 17 with freshman guard Maurice Creek.
Watford and Creek both shot 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, a team high for attempts and made shots.
The team was also its most unselfish on Saturday, with 19 assists on 25 field goals. Junior guard Jeremiah Rivers had more than half of those assists and led the team with 10 – the highest of the season for any Hoosier.
IU coach Tom Crean said his team responded well to the Demons’ defense.
“It’s not just ’cause Matt’s out,” Crean said. “The assists are very indicative that we took what the defense is giving us.”
IU’s selflessness will be important as it takes on Maryland on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“I thought we really tried to make the extra pass, and that’s going to be very crucial in the games coming up.”
Rivers played all but four minutes on Saturday. Prior to the match against Northwestern State, Rivers had averaged 30.3 minutes a game, the highest on the team.
“I was really impressed with him,” Crean said. “I’ve probably been more demanding of him than anyone else on the team.”
Crean said in a normal situation he wouldn’t have played Rivers so much but needed him on the court.
Saturday was the first no-student home game of the season, with five more coming during winter break. Senior center Tijan Jobe said he missed the student fans.
“I looked and the students weren’t there, and I said, ‘Wow,’” Jobe said.
A fan favorite, Jobe played 12 minutes on Saturday, tying the highest amount of minutes he’s seen on the court. He finished with four points, four fouls and two blocks.
When asked about what the team has improved on the most since the season began two weeks ago, Jobe said communication.
“We just started talking more right now,” Jobe said. “Coach says we just have to talk.”
While at times only the pep band could drown out Crean’s screams to his team, the coach said his players have gotten better at talking on the court.
“I thought we communicated better,” Crean said.
Turnovers are still an issue for the Hoosiers, who averaged 16.7 before Saturday’s game, in which they had 18.
“By no stretch of the imagination are we playing great,” Crean said. “By no stretch of the imagination are we playing mistake-free. It’s going to be a long time before we get to that point.”
Elston said Crean hasn’t focused on decreasing turnovers in practice, despite them being an issue during the three-game stretch in Puerto Rico.
“A lot of those games were won and lost by turnovers and free throws,” Elston said. “It’s still an issue, but not too big of an issue.”
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