BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Cody Zeller kept Indiana in the game Wednesday night. Verdell Jones' late charge proved to be the difference.
Zeller finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Jones overcame a bruised right shoulder to score all six of his points over the final 4:03, helping No. 18 Indiana get past Northwestern 71-66.
The victory gave Indiana coach Tom Crean his first 20-win season in four seasons in Bloomington. The Hoosiers (20-6, 8-6 Big Ten) are 15-1 at home this season.
Northwestern (15-10, 5-8) had won six of the previous seven in this series and needed another victory at Indiana to help make a stronger case to the NCAA tournament selection committee.
John Shurna led the Wildcats with 29 points, and Drew Crawford finished with 18, but they didn't get enough help to pull off the upset — or to keep up with Jones' finishing flurry.
Jones, who missed the previous 2½ games with the injury, changed everything in the final 4:03.
He broke the tie with a 15-foot baseline jumper, then drove in for a layup to give Indiana a 67-63 lead. After the teams traded baskets, Jones did it again, this time hitting what appeared to be a 3-pointer from the left corner with 29.4 seconds to go. A replay review overturned the call, making it a 2-pointer, but the shot gave Indiana a 71-65 lead.
This was supposed to be an exhibition of the Big Ten's two top 3-point shooting teams.
Instead, it turned into a real grinder.
Northwestern quickly erased a 37-31 halftime deficit by opening the second half on a 12-2 run. Shurna's tip-in gave the Wildcats a 43-39 lead with 16:51 to go.
But Zeller and Will Sheehey brought the Hoosiers right back. They accounted for all of Indiana's points in a 10-2 run that gave it a 49-45 lead less than 3 minutes later.
The Wildcats answered with two free throws from Crawford, consecutive baskets from Shurna and a 3 by Richie Hearn to retake a 54-49 lead with 11:16 left. Victor Oladipo scored five straight for the Hoosiers to tie it at 54.
It was that kind of night — until Jones swung the game in the closing minutes.