Wildcats and Hoosiers mix it up in Big Ten action

Big Ten Conference rivals square off in ranked Indiana Hoosiers.

Northwestern comes in sporting a 15-9 overall record, which includes a 5-7 mark in conference play. The Wildcats recently had a modest three-game win streak stopped in an 87-77 loss at Purdue, which dropped the team's record in true road games this year to 2-6. Following this clash, NU will play three of its final five regular-season games at home, where it is 10-3 on the year.

Indiana is an impressive 19-6 to this point in the campaign, and the team has won seven of its 13 Big Ten bouts. The Hoosiers claimed an 84-71 triumph over Illinois at home last Thursday in their most recent outing, giving them two straight wins and victories in three of their last four games overall. IU is a near-perfect 14-1 at home this season, its only loss in Bloomington coming against Minnesota back on January 12.

Indiana owns a commanding 109-46 lead in the all-time series with Northwestern, but the Wildcats have won six of the last seven meetings, including two of the last three in Bloomington.

John Shurna scored 30 points in leading four Wildcats in double figures, but still the visitors to Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana found themselves on the short end of an 87-77 final against the hometown Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday. Reggie Hearn finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, Drew Crawford tallied 14 points and Dave Sobolewski chipped in a dozen for Northwestern, which shot 49.1 percent from the field, making 10 three-pointers along the way. Unfortunately for the 'Cats, the Boilermakers nailed 11 treys, claimed a 24-11 edge in points from the foul line, and committed a mere five turnovers. Shurna has certainly proven himself to be one of the better players in the Big Ten, as he averages 19.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to lead his team in both categories. Additionally, he paces the club in three-point baskets (65), blocked shots (37) and steals (28). Crawford is also having a stellar campaign, netting 16.8 ppg on the strength of his 41.0 percent effort from downtown, the team as a whole hitting its three-pointers 38.6 percent of the time.

Cody Zeller went 5-of-8 from the field and 12-of-14 at the free-throw line to finish with 22 points, as he led Indiana to its 13-point win over Illinois last week. In addition to Zeller's effort, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo scored 18 points apiece, and Jordan Hulls tallied 15 points and seven assists for the Hoosiers, who drained half of their 42 field goal attempts, hitting 7-of-12 three-point tries for good measure. A huge 35-12 advantage in points from the foul line was clearly the difference, as IU attempted 42 free throws and the Illini just 15. Zeller (15.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) leads the team in both scoring and rebounding this season, while Watford (12.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Hulls (12.2 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Oladipo (10.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) have been consistent contributors as well. As a collective unit, Indiana is putting up 78.7 ppg in dropping 49.6 percent of its total shots and 43.6 percent of its long-range bombs, while at the defensive end giving up 65.9 ppg with its foes shooting 42.2 percent from the floor overall and 32.7 percent from beyond the arc.