(MCT) — EVANSTON, Ill. — Hit with devastating injuries, which forced rearranged lineups, Northwestern finally is starting to figure it out.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it took until after halftime Sunday to piece together a method for solving Indiana. By then it was too late.
A second-half comeback fell short and Northwestern lost 67-59 to remain winless in Big Ten play at Welsh-Ryan Arena, which was packed with the crimson and cream of Hoosiers fans.
“We’re starting to get some sort of identity,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “It seems to me we’re taking some steps.”
It was another loss, but in battling the country’s No. 2 team, the Wildcats (11-8, 2-4) showed some of the promise that was evident in their victory at No. 22 Illinois on Thursday.
Northwestern fell behind by 17 points in the first half and trailed 31-17 at the break. They had made only 30.3 percent of their shots and just 1 of 9 3-pointers.
“I thought they really punished us,” Carmody said of the first half.
After halftime, the Wildcats adjusted defensively and connected on 50 percent of their shots, including 5 of 10 3-pointers.
Indiana coach Tom Crean bristled at questions about how Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone defense disrupted the Hoosiers (16-2, 4-1).
That kept the ball out of Cody Zeller’s hands — for a while. He finished with his fifth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“It’s tough to duplicate that, even in practice,” the 7-footer said of Northwestern’s defense. “We ended up figuring it out at the end, but that kind of throws things off. They just kind of sped us up for a while. We kind of panicked for a while. ... Once we got in the middle and got in the baseline we started making shots.”
Indiana was limited to 15 second-half shots, making eight, but made 19 of 24 free throws.
Northwestern, which outscored the Hoosiers 42-36 after halftime, closed within five three times in the final seven minutes.
A 3-pointer by Reggie Hearn pulled the Wildcats to 56-51 with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
Hearn kept the Wildcats afloat for much of the game, sinking shots while his teammates were invisible at times. He scored 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Jared Swopshire added 13 points.
Indiana outrebounded Northwestern 36-24 and outscored the Wildcats 11-5 on second-chance points. Northwestern center Alex Olah grabbed only one rebound.
“That’s scary,” Carmody said. “It’s just not acceptable.”