Feb. 25, 2009
Box Score |
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Northwestern's Craig Moore considered Wednesday's milestone victory a validation.
Coach Bill Carmody was just relieved.
After 35 straight losses in Bloomington, 32 of those at Assembly Hall, the Wildcats finally ended Indiana's hex, pulling away for a 75-53 victory and the school's first-ever win on the Hoosiers' current home court.
Moore, a senior, had heard all those dreadful stories - the close calls, the routs, the embarrassing streak that lasted so long many of the players' fathers probably couldn't remember Northwestern's last road win against Indiana. Heck, even Carmody didn't know right away.
"I just found out about it," Carmody said in his postgame news conference. "We hadn't won here, really? My graduate guy just told me that."
It didn't take long for Carmody to share the news.
Afterward, he walked back to the locker room and informed his players, who celebrated in the typical low-key Northwestern style.
There was no dancing or jumping around when the final buzzer sounded, though nobody would have blamed them, and when they emerged from the locker room, all smiles, they had to correct reporters' memories.
"Since 1968," Moore said after being asked about 1966. "Coach Carmody just told us in there."
For the Wildcats (15-11, 6-9 Big Ten), this was more than just another accomplishment.
After ending long losing streaks earlier this season against Ohio State and at Michigan State, Northwestern seemed to be fading. It had lost four times in five games, coming into its personal house of horrors.
But against an undermanned, inexperienced Hoosiers team, the Wildcats changed directions, did the unthinkable and boosted their postseason resume.
Moore led the Wildcats with 17 points. Michael Thompson added 16 and John Shurna finished with 11.
"It's nice for us, a good win for the program," said forward Kevin Coble
, who scored 10. "Winning here, beating Ohio State, who coach had never beaten and at Michigan State, that's a lot of good things for us, so I think we've got some good momentum."
For Indiana, it was another bleak chapter in the worst season in school history.
The Hoosiers (6-21, 1-14) had already set school records for most losses in a season, most Big Ten losses in a season and tied the longest losing streak in school history.
They couldn't even salvage this streak, which began before Assembly Hall opened and before Bob Knight donned the crimson and cream.
And after their sixth straight loss, Tom Crean gave a rare glimpse into his own frustration.
"There are so many things we have to get better at, and we've known that all year," he said. "The steam is running dry a little bit right now, and we've got to do everything we can do to make the foundation strong and build for the future. We just do not have a defensive mindset."
Clearly, that was one problem Indiana had against the Wildcats, who shot 56.5 percent from the field and were 9-of-16 on 3-pointers.
The other problem was a lack of aggressiveness on offense. After the Hoosiers made seven of their first 12 shots, Indiana went 17-of-44 and only had two players reach double figures. Kyle Taber scored 12, his second straight game with a career high, and Nick Williams finished with 11 - not nearly enough to offset Northwestern's long-range shooters and cutting layups.
At first, it looked like it would be just another typical Indiana-Northwestern game.
The Hoosiers broke to a 15-7 lead with sharp passes and heads-up plays to beat the Wildcats' 1-3-1 zone.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it broke down.
"We got beat by our own mindset as much as anything else tonight," Crean said. "They're good, I'm not taking anything away from them. But that's where it's at. We stopped being real aggressive."
Northwestern took advantage, too.
With a 19-5 run in the first half, the Wildcats erased that eight-point deficit and jumped to a 26-20 lead with 4:44 to go.
Indiana charged back early in the second half, getting as close as 41-39 with 14:28 left.
After that, it was all Wildcats.
Luka Mirkovic hit a 15-footer and Jeremy Nash followed that with a 3-pointer to make it 46-39. When the run ended, Northwestern had hit four 3s and outscored Indiana 24-12 over the last 12 minutes, closing it out with free throws while the starters stood in front of the bench.
"Coaches said we had a great shot to win tonight," Moore said. "They work hard, they play hard, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy. But the coaches said if you play through it, you can beat them."
And for the first time in 41 years, they did it in Bloomington.
The Wildcats, who assured themselves of at least a .500 season, can clinch their first winning season since 2001-02 with one more victory. Northwestern holds "Senior Day" at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 28 against Iowa.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)