Basketball is a game of scoring runs.
IU freshman guard Devonte Green nailed a buzzer-beater from beyond half court to cap off a 22-0 run for the Hoosiers in the final five minutes of the first half.
After struggling for most of the first half, IU began to lock down on defense at the right time and comfortably entered the locker room with a 10-point lead.
Sophomore forward Thomas Bryant said the final run all started with a defense-first mentality.
“Our best offense is when we get out and get a rebound,” Bryant said. “So that was a big thing, and when we got into the offense it was about getting a good shot.”
Northwestern sophomore forward Vic Law caught the ball at the left wing with 5:30 left in the first half, made a move on Green and finished with a two-handed jam at the rim. IU Coach Tom Crean immediately took a timeout with his team down 12 and many of the same mistakes from the past month and a half still plaguing the Hoosiers.
IU had eight turnovers and just six made shots in the first 15 minutes of the game.
IU cut down on mistakes, and the Hoosier defense intensified after the timeout. IU committed just one turnover in the final five minutes of the half and held Northwestern to 0-of-8 shooting from the field.
In addition to the Wildcats not making a shot in their final eight attempts, the Hoosiers made 7-of-9 from the floor in the final run of the first half.
Crean said the difference between the start of the game and the final five minutes of the first half was the defense and Northwestern was three of 18 when the Wildcats didn’t get into the paint.
“To cap off a half, you know, this team is not used to going on 22-0 runs,” Crean said. “We’ve had teams in the past that have done that. This one hasn’t as much, but again it was how they got it. They got it with defense.”
With the momentum on its side at the start of the second half, IU came out shooting the basketball poorly. The Wildcats took the lead after the Hoosiers scored four points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Northwestern led the entire way down the stretch, and it seemed as if IU was going to let another close ballgame end up as a loss, but the Hoosiers kept fighting.
IU locked down on defense in the final 1:15 of the ball game and found success once again, just like at the end of the first half.
After a missed Northwestern 3-pointer, junior guard James Blackmon Jr. responded with a made 3-pointer and cut the lead to two. All IU had to do was play another possession of solid defense and they would have a shot to tie or take the lead.
Northwestern junior guard Bryant McIntosh, who had a game high 22 points, was defended well by IU sophomore forward Juwan Morgan and missed a layup with fewer than 10 seconds left.
Blackmon grabbed the rebound and dribbled the length of the floor to find Bryant underneath the basket for the dunk and foul. Bryant made the ensuing free throw attempt and the Hoosiers held on for their first victory in more than three weeks.
“We were looking to tie it up for McIntosh and put pressure on him,” Blackmon Jr. said. “And we played a great defensive possession, and it allowed us to come up with a rebound.”