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Thursday, March 11, 2010
Northwestern heats up, rallies past IU

By Adam Rittenberg

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Carmody's motto for years has been simple and straightforward: Make shots.

Those two words appear outside Northwestern's basketball offices and on the T-shirts of those in NU's student section.

Michael Thompson
Northwestern's Michael Thompson scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.
For 32 minutes, Carmody's players didn't follow orders at all. With 7:58 left in Thursday's first-round Big Ten tournament matchup against No. 10 seed Indiana, Northwestern had made 4 of 28 shots from 3-point range.

"At shoot-around today, we made about five percent of our shots," Carmody said. "I thought we got all our misses out of our system, but we didn't."

Junior point guard Michael Thompson evidently had enough of the bricks, and sparked Northwestern on a huge second-half run to take control. The seventh-seeded Wildcats went on a 20-5 spurt midway through the second half and recorded a rather comfortable 73-58 win against Indiana. They outscored IU 37-13 in the final 13 minutes.

Northwestern has won 20 games for the first time in team history and advances to face No. 2 seed Purdue in the quarterfinals Friday (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET). Thursday's win likely assures NU of an NIT berth, at the very least.

After scoring only three points in an ugly first half, Thompson exploded for 13 in the final 20 minutes and really provided a lift from beyond the arc (four 3-pointers). The man nicknamed "Juice" didn't have much of it early, but an elbow to the throat from Indiana's Tijan Jobe early in the second half changed that.

Though the elbow wasn't intentional, no foul was called and the 5-9 Thompson let the 7-feet Jobe know about it. Thompson got in Jobe's face and the officials called double technical fouls with Indiana leading 35-29 and 17:08 left.

"He felt like the big guy was trying to bully the little guy," Wildcats guard Jeremy Nash said. "He was like, 'I'm not having it. I'm going to show you how big I can play.'"

Thompson did in the final nine minutes, sparking Northwestern with his shooting and showing emotion rarely displayed.

"That really got me going," he said of the altercation with Jobe. "It gave me a lot more energy to make me want to go out there and play hard. It was just me being small and him trying to move me out the way.

"All my life, I've been small. People [underestimate] me because of my height, but I just try to compete and play as hard as I can."

Northwestern had relied almost exclusively on its starting five for most of the season, but got a huge lift off the bench from guard Alex Marcotullio (eight points) and forwards Davide Curletti (12 points) and Mike Capocci. The Wildcats found other contributors than Thompson and John Shurna today.

Indiana (10-21) had no business leading by only three points at the half, after the way Northwestern shot the ball. The Hoosiers built an 8-point lead in the second half but totally fell apart down the stretch, especially with their ball-handling. The rebuilding project continues for Tom Crean.