Without Blackmon, Indiana struggles in Big 10 road loss Thomas Bryant paces Hoosiers with double-double.

A big question looms over Indiana basketball:

When will leading scorer James Blackmon play again?

That’s followed by a second “can the Hoosiers win without him for however long that is” as they did last year?

The short answer is no.

The long answer will take more time.

The junior guard missed Sunday night’s 68-55 loss at surging Northwestern because of a leg injury suffered Thursday night at Michigan. The official word is that he’s sidelined indefinitely, although coach Tom Crean said on the post-game radio broadcast that, “We’ll get James back soon. I’m not sure when.”

This has happened once before this season. Blackmon, a former Bishop Luers standout, tweaked his knee in a late November loss to Fort Wayne, and missed one game, then came back strong.

Blackmon appeared to hurt his knee late in the first half against Michigan. He dribbled the ball past half court then pulled up limping. Officials called an injury timeout, but Blackmon stayed in the game. He played 15 second-half minutes, and never attempted a shot.

After the game, Blackmon had an ice bag on his right knee. He has had major surgery on both knees, three overall, and missed the entire Big Ten season last year with a knee injury. <br> In a release Crean said, “Unfortunately, James Blackmon sustained a lower leg injury during our game at Michigan and will be out for an indefinite period of time. As much as this affects our basketball team, as with all of the other injuries this year, it hurts us much more for James. He has been playing at a very high level. This is unfortunate.”

Blackmon, a former Bishop Luers standout, averages 17.6 points and 4.9 rebounds. He shoots 49.4 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from three-point range.

Like all the Hoosiers, he was a no-show at Michigan. In 33 minutes, he had just four points and three rebounds. He had four turnovers against one assist.

Blackmon had been dominant in the two previous games. He hit the game-winning three-pointer at Penn State, then followed with a career-high 33 points in the home win over Michigan State. He was named Big Ten co-player of the week, as well as NBC Sports national player of the week, for that effort.

“The whole team is going to have to raise their level of play higher to make up for a player of James’ caliber,” assistant coach Rob Judson said. “You look at those games against Penn State and Michigan State, and what he did for our team. It’s going to take a whole team effort in order to make up for what he’s been giving us.”

The backcourt burden falls to veteran guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk, as well as freshmen guards Devonte Green and Curtis Jones, plus walk-on Zach McRoberts.

On Sunday night, the burden was too much. They were were a combined 7-for-30 from the field.

IU was already without forward OG Anunoby and swingman Collin Hartman, who are out for the rest of the season with knee injuries.

Forward Juwan Morgan is still recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for Penn State and Michigan State. He played against Michigan, but had just three points and two rebounds in 11 minutes. Against Northwestern he started and finished with three points and five rebounds.

“Juwan is playing with a lot of grit,” Judson said. “We’ll need him to continue to do that.”

IU continued a season-long turnover problem. It had 13 against Northwestern, which resulted in 15 Wildcat points. The Big Ten’s best offense struggled against one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, shooting just 32 percent from the field. Indiana also was just 13-for-22 from the free throw line.

The Hoosiers scored a season low in points for the second straight game.

Center Thomas Bryant led IU with a career-high-tying 23 points. He added 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double.

Northwestern (18-4 overall, 7-2 in the Big Ten) has won six straight conference games for the first time since the Great Depression. The Wildcats were led by Bryant McIntosh’s 21 points and eight assists.

The Hoosiers (14-8, 4-5) have lost two straight, both on the road. They will try to bounce back Wednesday at Assembly Hall against Penn State. <br>

<i> For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio and on Facebook at Pete DiPrimio. </i>