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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Saturday's game a battle of weak units

During its five Big Ten games in this season, Northwestern struggled with one of the most basic aspects of basketball — putting the ball in the hoop.

The Wildcats average 51.2 points per game throughout their conference slate, putting them dead last in the Big Ten by almost 10 points.

IU will welcome Northwestern to Bloomington on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. game.

The Hoosiers have scored an average of 72.5 points per game in conference play, more than 20 points better than its upcoming opponent.

Despite the Wildcats’ offensive struggles and his team’s recent upset of No. 3 Wisconsin, IU Coach Tom Crean said the matchup is not one to overlook.

“We’re not going to sit on this tape and sit and watch this tape and have a pizza party and get some ice cream and say, ‘Wow, we couldn’t have played any better,’” Crean said. “Home, on the road, it doesn’t make a difference. The league is that good, and that’s why it’s so strong. We’ve got to keep building the confidence of why we’re being successful.”

The Wildcats have failed to reach 50 points in three of their five Big Ten matchups, and have been hindered by that statistic in spite of strong defensive performances.

Advanced college basketball statistics website kenpom.com ranks Northwestern as the 313th-strongest offensive team in the country, a stark contrast to its No. 37 defense.

In comparison, IU heads into Saturday’s game as kenpom.com’s No. 86 offensive team and its No. 58 team defensively.

Each team is dominated in scoring by a backcourt leader.

IU sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell leads the Big Ten with 17.9 points scored per game.

Northwestern senior guard Drew Crawford is one of three Wildcats averaging double-digit scoring figures at 15 points per game — 12th in the conference.
In spite of IU’s highly ranked defense, the Hoosiers have struggled to keep the ball out of their own basket in the Big Ten season.

They gave up 68.9 points per game in their four conference games, better than only two other teams.

Saturday’s game will be a battle of IU’s strong offense against Northwestern’s equally strong defense, and IU’s weak defense against Northwestern’s stagnant offense.

While Northwestern looks like one of the Big Ten’s weaker teams on paper, Crean said every game gives his team an opportunity to grow.

“They’re just getting better,” he said. “When you’re with them every day, you’re focused on the improvement more than you’re focused on the successes. Northwestern got their first Big Ten win last week against Illinois, and they played a very tough game against Michigan State. They are a team that is extremely well-coached with (Northwestern Coach) Chris Collins and (Assistant Coach) Brian James, and they are a difficult team to prepare for.”

He said the energy of Assembly Hall’s fans, to whom he repeatedly gave credit after the win against Wisconsin, will again be vital to IU’s performance.

“I can’t wait to be out there with our students again on Saturday,” Crean said. “They were difference-makers on Tuesday and received a lot of attention nationally. I think it’s outstanding. Bring the energy and passion. This is your team.”

Follow men’s basketball reporter Alden Woods on Twitter @acw9293.

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