2010 Big Ten Tournament First Round Recap
Big Ten Tournament - First Round
(7) Northwestern 73, (10) Indiana 58
Michael Thompson drove a second-half comeback to carry the seventh-seeded Northwestern Wildcats to a 73-58 win over tenth-seeded Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis.
Thompson led the Wildcats with 16 points. Second-team all-conference forward John Shurna added 14. Indiana’s Verdell Jones III led all scorers with 20.
The Northwestern offense is always heavily reliant on the three-pointer. Coach Bill Carmody’s mantra is simple: “make shots.” But in their postseason debut, the Wildcats fired bricks for much of the day.
Northwestern not only continued to shoot with confidence; the Wildcats also kept their poise and maintained their defensive intensity. The Cats’ resiliency would pay dividends as the second half unfolded. The Wildcats scored 32 points in the final 9:11, including a decisive 20-5 run highlighted by Thompson’s 13 points.
Indiana seemed to be in control early in the second half, as the only offensive highlights for bricklaying Northwestern were a pair of threes by lefty Alex Marcotullio that kept the Wildcats within striking distance. After Marcotullio’s second 3-pointer with 13:21 remaining, the teams combined for just 12 points over the next 6:09, but they were crucial. Thompson hit a runner with just over nine minutes left to pull the Wildcats within two, at 45-43, and a steal by Shurna on the ensuing possession led to Marcotullio’s fastbreak layup to tie the score at 45. The Wildcats took their first lead less than a minute later, when Mike Capocci hit a pair of free throws.
Northwestern will face second-seeded Purdue on Friday afternoon in Indianapolis. In their only matchup of the season, the Wildcats upset the Boilermakers 72-64 on Jan. 16 in Evanston, possibly costing Purdue an undisputed Big Ten regular-season title.
Purdue is talented enough not to need revenge as motivation, but Northwestern’s Princeton-style offense, with ball movement and perimeter shooting, gives it a chance against just about anyone, regardless of any talent gap.
It’s a slowdown offense, but the ball moves quickly. The Wildcats will wait for the open opportunity, and they’ll keep shooting until they hit. Combined with a quirky, trapping 1-3-1 zone, the mad-bombing offense will make Northwestern difficult to eliminate – even for the talented Boilers. Look for Purdue to do whatever it takes to get the ball to standout center JuJuan Johnson. Northwestern doesn’t seem to have an easy answer for the 6’10” Johnson, who will be playing in his hometown.
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