BLOOMINGTON – William Mosley stood near his team’s basket after rebounding Christian Watford’s three-point attempt midway through the first quarter Saturday at Assembly Hall.
The Northwestern State center looked to make a pass, but Indiana’s Maurice Creek swatted the ball away, picked it up and made a layup.
Defense was the theme this week at Indiana’s practices. That translated to a season high in steals and turnovers for the Hoosiers in a 90-72 victory over Northwestern State.
IU forced 23 turnovers and had 13 steals on the way to snapping a three-game losing streak in front of 11,128 fans at Assembly Hall.
By no stretch of the imagination are we playing great. By no stretch of the imagination are we playing mistake-free. It will be a long time before we get to that point, IU coach Tom Crean said. (But) we are playing hard. We are playing with a real purpose.
Freshmen Watford and Creek had 17 points to lead IU. Freshman Derek Elston added 12 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Senior Devan Dumes scored 11 points as the Hoosiers improved to 3-3.
We picked up the intensity, Creek said. We try to get everything right and do everything as hard as we do in practice and bring it to the game.
Junior Jeremiah Rivers did a little bit of everything, finishing with six points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
He took what the game gave him, Crean said. Seven defensive rebounds were as important as the 10 assists. He really read the game well. We need him to be a big-game player every night. When he’s passing the ball, rebounding the ball and moving the ball like that to his teammates, that’s big.
IU scored the game’s first six points and never trailed. The Hoosiers used a 15-3 run midway through the first half to build a 35-20 lead. Creek’s steal and layup at 10:51 started the spurt.
Northwestern State (2-2), a Southland Conference team from Natchitoches, La., got within 59-50 with 10:37 left. IU responded with a 14-4 run in the next three minutes to take a 73-54 lead.
In all their runs, they were able to get easy buckets because we didn’t contest shots, Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said.
We had two or three times where we would rebound the ball and they’d get it right back and score a bucket. Those are things from a basketball perspective you can’t allow to happen when you are playing a Big Ten opponent.
After three losses in San Juan and with Maryland, Pittsburgh and Kentucky on the horizon, Saturday was a result the Hoosiers needed.
We communicated better, Crean said. We still have a ways to go on guarding the dribble, we still have a ways to go on our rotations, we still crack with our backs and arms rather than our lower body on block outs, but there was a real purpose behind it. Our guys played with some force.