INDIANAPOLIS -- After playing from behind against Indiana for the first 32 minutes of game action, Northwestern took a 47-45 lead on a pair of free throws by Mike Capocci and never trailed again, going on to defeat the Hoosiers 73-58 at Conseco Fieldhouse in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday. Junior Michael Thompson scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half to lead NU to its first Big Ten Tournament win since 2005.
Northwestern (20-12) moves on to the tournament's quarterfinals where it will face second-seeded Purdue at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday. NU took down then sixth-ranked Purdue 72-64 Jan. 16 in Evanston during the only regular-season meeting between the schools.
It is the first 20-win season for the Wildcats in school history.
Similar to the meeting between the NU and the Hoosiers in the regular-season finale last Saturday, March 6, the Wildcats struggled from 3-point range in the first half. NU connected on only two of 18 attempts from beyond the arc over the opening 20 minutes of play.
IU jumped out to an 8-0 lead right out of the gates, but Northwestern eventually settled in. The Wildcats scored nine of the game's next 12 points to get them within two following a steal by Alex Marcotullio and an ensuing slam by Jeremy Nash.
The Hoosiers would push their lead back to seven, but Thompson's 3-pointer capped an 11-4 run by NU which tied the game at 20 with 4:29 remaining in the opening half.
John Shurna's tip-in at the first-half buzzer helped the Wildcats eventually close within 30-27 at the intermission.
Northwestern remained in the game by making 10 of its 12 tries from 2-point territory.
The Wildcats' inaccuracy from 3-point range continued into the second half as they misfired on their first six attempts as Indiana pushed its lead to eight, 37-29, with 16:25 to go. But it would be the NU bench that brought the Wildcats to life.
Davide Curletti, who scored a career-high 12 points in the contest, scored on a layup and following two free throws by Shurna, Marcotullio drilled a triple to make it a three-point game.
Indiana answered with consecutive baskets, but that's when Northwestern made the decisive run of the game. Marcotullio started things with his second 3-pointer and NU eventually got back to even at 45 apiece on the freshman's lay-in following a steal by Shurna.
The Wildcats' advantage was 51-49 when Thompson got the hot hand and took the game over. His three 3-pointers over a two-minute span down the stretch capped off Northwestern's 24-7 run that saw the 'Cats pull away to a 63-52 lead with under four minutes to go.
NU would connect on its final eight free throw attempts to seal its fourth victory over Indiana in their last five meetings.
In addition to Curletti's career-high point total, Marcotullio contributed 8 points and a team-high 5 assists and Mike Capocci contributed 4 points, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and a blocked shot. Northwestern forced 19 Indiana miscues helping the Wildcats own a 29-5 edge in points off turnovers.