IU focuses on deep ball in third meeting with Northwestern
The Hoosiers will be well versed in the Wildcats’ play when they see the team for the second time in such a short span.
But there’s one thing IU knows Northwestern won’t change when the two teams play in the Big Ten Tournament’s first round at 5 p.m. Thursday: its volume of 3-point attempts.
“They’re not going to stop shooting 3s,” IU coach Tom Crean said.
IU doesn’t plan to match Northwestern shot-for-shot, but the team is well aware that it must stop the Wildcats from getting open looks to get a victory.
Heaving deep attempts might just be Northwestern’s way, but the outside shooting team has won in this season’s split two-game series.
“When you win a game and the other team makes 13-42 3-pointers, that’s a lot of 3s,” Crean said. “But they shot 48 or 46 at Illinois earlier in the year, so that’s just part of who they are.”
They shot 47 3-pointers in the aforementioned Illinois game Dec. 30, but that is not odd for the Wildcats.
Northwestern has taken more than 804 3-pointers this season, easily trumping its opponents’ 629 attempts.
The Wildcats average 26 bombs per game and hit 36 percent of those.
IU, on the other hand, has been without its two best 3-point shooters for most of the season in injured guards freshman Maurice Creek and sophomore Matt Roth.
As a result, IU has only shot 454 3-pointers, just about half of Northwestern’s attempts.
Its 34-percent effort is not too shabby, though that number is somewhat inflated because of Creek’s early-season performance.
He shot 44 percent from the arc before going down 12 games into the season with a knee injury.
He will not be available Thursday.
Northwestern, meanwhile, will have its best shooters in John Shurna and Michael Thompson.
But their appearance won’t mean as much as shot selection will.
Northwestern was far more conservative in its attempts when it won in Evanston, Ill. It was also more efficient.
The Wildcats were 10-of-25, good for 40 percent. Its shooting took IU out of the game early in a 78-61 win on Feb. 7.
IU was startled but the hot start and was only 2-of-17 from deep. Part of its poor showing came because players forced shots to counter Northwestern’s performance.
Sophomore guard Verdell Jones said the Hoosiers have to work to get easy shots and stay even-tempered if the Wildcats get hot.
“The most important thing is, if they hit 3s, we can’t just come down and try to rush up another quick 3 to try to match it,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with possessions, and we can’t come up with empty possessions.”
But defense always plays a part in how well the other team shoots.
Where IU failed to put a hand in the face of Northwestern shooters in the first game, it improved once it played at home.
Fourty-two Northwestern attempts resulted in only a 31-percent effort from behind the 3-point line.
IU put together a 10-of-23 performance for a 43-percent shooting performance as a team.
That was based largely on freshman guard Jordan Hulls’ career-high night. He hit eight 3-pointers for all of his 24 points.
Per pregame adjustments, Hulls said he expects to see tighter defense. He said that’s fine with him if someone else gets an easy shot.
“Last game, it was the 3-point shot, so we’re going to try to focus on that but really just take what they give us,” Hulls said. “You just have to read the defense and take the best shot possible.”