The consistency and ability to get to the free throw line continues to keep Indiana forward Cody Zeller amongst the leading candidates for National Player of the Year. On Sunday, on the road at Northwestern, Zeller once again made countless plays, finishing the game with 21 points, including a 9-for-10 stretch from the foul line.
The Wildcats had their opportunities late, continuously cutting the Hoosiers’ lead to two or three possessions after different times in the second half. However, Northwestern could not get any closer as Indiana kept the Wildcats at bay throughout the final minutes.
The overall issue in Northwestern’s attempt at an upset bid may have been their slow start and sluggish first half. The Wildcats mustered only 17 points in the first 20 minutes and despite just six total points from Indiana’s bench, Northwestern could not overcome their 14-point halftime deficit.
The theme continues to be common for Northwestern and their fans as the yearly pursuit of the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance presents annual frustration. A couple of missed chances over the past few years have left the Wildcats in the same boat and now at 11-8 overall and 2-4 within the Big Ten Conference, the window of opportunity is closing, yet again.
Sure, the conference will continue to provide the Wildcats with a number of games that could turn the debate around, but it’s still become a consistent theme. The Wildcats certainly weren’t favored heading into Sunday’s contest against the Hoosiers, but a win would have undoubtedly been huge.
Another loss at the end of the day simply means Northwestern must now refocus. Another prime opportunity at a statement win will present itself on Wednesday as Minnesota comes to town.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS