On Saturday night, the Indiana Hoosiers will travel to Evanston, Ill. to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. Both teams have struggled as of late, with IU dropping their last three contests, while NU have lost four in a row.
These two squads battled last month, with Chris Collins' Wildcats leaving Bloomington, Ind. victorious by the score of 54-47. While both teams have struggled offensively, I would expect Saturday's final score to eclipse a combined 101 points.
Here is a breakdown on each team's five most used players in recent games. Stanford Robinson recently took over the starting two-guard role for Evan Gordon, and while Tre Demps continues to come off the Wildcat bench, he plays 30-plus minutes on a nightly basis and Kale Abrahamson sits late in contests.
Center: Alex Olah vs. Noah Vonleh
During the team's first matchup, Olah had a solid stat line of eight points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. In turn, Vonleh scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Both big men affected each other's paint touches, as Olah shot 2-of-9 while Vonleh connected on only 5-of-15 field goal attempts.
Olah is not 100 percent healthy, but will play big-time minutes on Saturday as backup big Nikola Cerina is suspended for one game following an altercation with Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross on Wednesday evening. Olah is one of the league's most improved players, but Vonleh is the league's top freshman. Indiana needs to make an effort to get the ball inside, however, as Vonleh often lacks paint touches for long spurts. Edge: Vonleh
Power Forward: Sanjay Lumpkin vs. Troy Williams
Neither Lumpkin nor Williams played well in the season's first matchup, as the two combined to shoot 0-of-3 for zero points, turned the ball over four times and committed six fouls. Both players are freshmen, though Lumpkin is of the redshirt variety.
Lumpkin's statistics don't always tell the whole story of his game. Lumpkin is an above-average defender and rebounder, while making all the hustle plays. Williams is a stellar athlete, but hasn't found a groove offensively. Jeremy Hollowell and Austin Etherington will also see minutes at the forward slots. Edge: Lumpkin
Small Forward: Drew Crawford vs. Will Sheehey
In the January matchup between the Hoosiers and Wildcats, Crawford was the star of the game, scoring 17 points and piling in 12 rebounds on 7-of-15 shooting. Sheehey struggled shooting the rock, connecting on only 1-of-7 attempts, good for only two points and three rebounds.
Crawford, a redshirt senior, is nearing the end of his collegiate career. Crawford is Northwestern's third all-time leading scorer with 1,831 career points, only behind Billy McKinney and John Shurna. Sheehey, a fellow senior, recently eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Sheehey needs to be part of IU's "big three," in order to make a late-season push towards any postseason tournament. Edge: Crawford
Shooting Guard: Tre Demps vs. Stanford Robinson
During Northwestern's hot streak in the middle of Big Ten play, Demps was the team's closer. An instant offense player off the bench, Demps scored 15 points in the team's January meeting, making 6-of-12 shots. Robinson also came off the bench in that game, as Evan Gordon got the nod at shooting guard. Since then, Robinson has been the better of the two and thus receives the lion's share of the minutes.
Demps is all about offense, while Robinson is a steady defender who has the ability to attack the tin with his dominant left hand. Shooting is Demps' strength, while Robinson struggles from the charity stripe. Look for Demps to demand the ball late, should Saturday's game come down to the wire. Edge: Demps
Point Guard: Jershon Cobb vs. Yogi Ferrell
A natural shooting guard, Cobb made the move to point guard when junior Dave Sobolewski went down with concussion-like symptoms. Sobo hasn't reentered the starting lineup since, and he has only played spot minutes, as the Wildcats are bigger and better defensively without him on the court.
Cobb scored five points and grabbed nine boards on January 18, while Ferrell chipped in nine points. Each player shot 14 percent from the field while guarding each other, as Cobb struggled with a 1-of-7 shooting clip compared to Ferrell's 2-of-14 shooting. Cobb has shot well lately, while Ferrell is one of the league's top players when his shot is on. Edge: Ferrell
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