Indiana Hoosiers Finish Season With a Bang, 88-80 OT Win Over Northwestern

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

After 44 days and 11 losses, the Indiana Hoosiers finally gave the Hoosier Nation a day to be happy about and excited for the future, with an 88-80 victory over Northwestern in OT.

Yes we know it was Northwestern. But this isn't any Northwestern team. The Wildcats have beaten Purdue, Illinois, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Michigan twice on their way to 19 wins so far this season, one of their most impressive.

But it was the Hoosiers who took the win on a Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall, where the four seniors (Brett Finkelmeier, Tijan Jobe, Steven Gambles, and Devan Dumas) were honored after playing in their final home game.

Freshman guard Jordan Hulls scored eight three-point shots (good for second place in Indiana history for most threes in a game) on his way to 24 points.

Freshman forward Derek Elston, getting a rare start, validated it with an excellent effort, scoring 17 points and eight rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

And in the final minutes of regulation, and the overtime period, there were four freshman and a sophomore on the court for Indiana, and they played like battle tested vets.

However it wasn't all good from the Hoosiers.

Northwestern's sophomore forward John Shurna scored a career-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including three three-point baskets and four free throws.

Also helping the Wildcats was junior guard Michael "Juice" Thompson's 25 points from seven three point shots, a layup, and two free throws.

Who would have thought that on a day when Northwestern would take 42 three-pointers, score 80 points, and force the Hoosiers to commit 17 turnovers, they would lose?

But that's just the kind of day it was, and for Indiana, it was about time that they rose to the occasion, and won.

The Wildcats came out firing, with Shurna scoring the first seven points of the game, and had a 7-3 lead over IU early.

But soon Indiana stormed back, with a couple of three's from Hulls, and some inside baskets from Elston, Jones, and Rivers.

Verdell Jones III, the sophomore guard for the Hoosiers, would miss a three-pointer at the end of halftime, but Indiana would go into the break up 34-28.

A nearly full crowd murmured in excitement, wondering if the Hoosiers could really win this game.

Again, Northwestern started the second half strong, and were up 51-47, with 11:40 left to play in the game.

From there, though, Indiana turned on the jets, going on a 12-3 run, which included two huge three-point shots by the aforementioned Hulls.

With 3:24 left, IU led 69-61, and it looked as though the Cream and Crimson would finally stop the bleeding and end the 11 game losing streak.

However, the Hoosiers almost fully imploded, committing four turnovers, including three from Jones III, who also missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity.

At the same time, a layup from center Luka Mirkovic sandwiched between two three point baskets from "Juice" Thompson tied the game and sent it to overtime.

But in the five-minute extra period, it was all Indiana, who outscored Northwestern 19-11, helped by Mirkovic, Drew Crawford, and Alex Marcotullio all fouling out.

Twelve of the Hoosiers 19 points in overtime came from the line, where they shot 26-32 overall on the day, good for 81 percent. In contrast, Northwestern was just 9-15, which is 60 percent.

Also a good sign for Indiana was their dominance on the glass, where they picked up 41 rebounds, with 17 (yes 17!) on the offensive end. The Wildcats had 31 rebounds on the day, as well as 17 of them on the offensive glass.

Both teams meet up again on Thursday, this time at the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Also it is interesting to note that both forward Tom Pritchard and guard Jeremiah Rivers did not start for Indiana, nor did they play any crucial minutes down the stretch of the game and in OT.