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IU gets ready for tourney

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Tipoff: Indiana vs. Northwestern,

5 p.m. Thursday

Radio: WNUY, 100.1-FM

TV: ESPN

Northwestern is first-round foe in Big Ten.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 10:25 am

BLOOMINGTON — So this much we know about Indiana heading into this week's Big Ten basketball tournament:

The suddenly hot Hoosiers (if you can call a one-game winning streak hot) will play Northwestern (19-12) Thursday afternoon in an opening-round game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

If IU (10-20) wins that game, it would play Big Ten co-champion Purdue (26-4) in Friday's 6:30 semifinal. The Boilers won both regular-season meetings, one a cliffhanger, one a rout.

IU split two games with Northwestern, losing in Evanston by 17 points, winning at Assembly Hall by eight in overtime Saturday.

At key moments against Northwestern, coach Tom Crean went with four freshmen and a sophomore. This would have been terrifying in November. In March, with a season of games and experience, it's interesting.

“They played like they had been through a lot,” Crean said. “It hit me once, but other than that, I didn't think about it. I just look at it as a basketball team.”

Jordan Hulls' roller coaster freshman season hit a career high with 24 points and four assists. He had eight three-point baskets, second in IU history behind the nine by Rod Wilmont and Matt Roth.

In his last two games, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball totaled 32 points and made 10 of 17 three-pointers. This is no surprise. In one practice drill, Hulls hit 77 three-pointers in five minutes, including 49 of his last 52.

“Jordan made some big shots,” Crean said, “and I think that's going to be part of his persona.”

Derek Elston continued his late surge with career-best efficiency. The freshman forward had 17 points and eight rebounds against Northwestern. In his last four games he has averaged 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“We felt (Elston and Hulls) were the two best (high school seniors) in the state of Indiana last year,” Crean said. “Neither one of those guys are just program guys. I mean, they are because of their character, because of their development, because they love to work. They are going to have a hand in turning the program. We are fortunate to have them.”