EVANSTON, Ill. — An “IU” chant began echoing at Welsh-Ryan Arena with about 15 seconds remaining in Sunday’s Indiana-Northwestern game.
The Hoosiers were technically the visitors, but once again Indiana felt at home on the road.
Cody Zeller had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the No. 2 Hoosiers to a 67-59 victory against the Wildcats in front of a mostly-pro IU crowd of 8,117 fans.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Indiana senior guard Jordan Hulls said. “We love Hoosier Nation out there. That was pretty cool.”
Hulls scored 15 points and Christian Watford added 14 points for the Hoosiers (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten).
Snider graduate Reggie Hearn had 22 points and Jared Swopshire finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (11-8, 2-4).
“I’d much rather have a ‘W’ than 22 points,” Hearn said.
Northwestern is 0-3 in home Big Ten games this season. The Hoosiers, conversely, improved to 3-0 in road conference contests.
“You have to get to the free-throw line and you have to rebound the basketball,” Watford said as keys for winning on the road.
The Hoosiers did both Sunday. IU had 36 rebounds to Northwestern’s 24. Indiana also made more free throws (23) than the Wildcats attempted (18).
Indiana also defended well, particularly in the first half when the Hoosiers held the Wildcats to 17 points and 30.4 percent shooting from the floor.
“I thought our guys really defended,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “One thing I had to remind them of, because they never read about it and they never hear about it, is that they are in the top 10 in field goal percentage defense (10th at 36.8 percent entering Sunday). They needed to be reminded when we do those things, we’re pretty good.
“… They’ve been very locked into this game and I think it showed in our defense.”
IU held the Wildcats without a point for more than six minutes during a stretch in the first half to build a 26-9 lead. The Hoosiers went to halftime leading 31-17.
But Northwestern chipped away on the lead in the second half.
“Early on the second half we got some drives and that really opened up the entire offense,” Northwestern guard Dave Sobolewski said. “The second half, we started out Reggie was getting to the rack and getting fouled. That opened up the entire offense.”
The Wildcats also used a 1-3-1 zone.
“You could tell they were a little sped up,” Sobolewski said.
Northwestern cut IU’s lead to 47-42 with 6:48 to go. Zeller then scored and was called for a charge. The basket with 6:20 remaining, IU’s first field goal since the 14:22 mark, started a 7-1 run.
Zeller also had a tip-in and Victor Oladipo made a three-pointer in the spurt.
The Wildcats got within five on two more occasions, but the Hoosiers never let them get any closer.
“We just had to keep playing,” Zeller said. “We were in a slump for a while where we couldn’t get anything going. We’ve got a lot of guys that can score in a lot of different ways. We have a lot of veterans who kept their composure. We made a few big plays down the stretch.”