EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's zone defense caused No. 2 Indiana some second-half panic on Sunday, but Cody Zeller said the Hoosiers kept their cool.
"They went with the 1-3-1, which is one of their staples," the Hoosiers sophomore center said after collecting 21 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-59 Big Ten victory on Sunday. "It's tough to duplicate that in practice because they run it so well.
"We kind of panicked for a while ... but we ended up figuring it out."
Jordan Hulls scored 15 points and Christian Watford added 14 in front of 8,117 predominately pro-Hoosier fans in sold-out Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Coming off last Thursday's victory at No. 23 Illinois, Northwestern (11-8, 2-4) had a game-high 22 points from Reggie Hearn, 13 from Jared Swopshire and 11 from Tre Demps.
The Hoosiers (16-2, 4-1) now have a shot at No. 1 in major polls after Syracuse toppled top-ranked Louisville on Saturday in a Big East clash.
The upset-minded Wildcats, seeking back-to-back wins over ranked teams for only the second time in school history, cut a 14-point halftime deficit to five in the final two minutes.
But Hulls hit a jumper to add a late cushion with 91 seconds to play and Watford made a free throw 33 seconds later for a 61-53 lead.
Indiana used its own nationally ranked defense to thwart Northwestern.
"Our guys really defended," said Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, whose defense is 10th nationally in field goal percentage. "One thing I had to remind them of is that they are in the top 10 in field goal percentage on defense.
"They're (also) in the top 10 in field goal percentage offensively, and when we do those things we're pretty good."
The Wildcats made 20 of 49 shots from the field (40.8 percent). Still, Northwestern had enough offensive success in the second half to erase the double-digit deficit.
"Early on in the second half, we got some drives and that opened up the offense," Wildcats guard Dave Sobolewski said.
The Hoosiers, the nation's top scoring team, were nearly 20 points below their season average and were 20 of 42 from the field (47.6 percent).
But they were highly successful at the free-throw line (23 of 31) and turned the ball over only six times.
The Hoosiers trailed only briefly and claimed a lead for good with 17:48 left in the first half when Victor Oladipo's rebound tip in made it 5-4.
Watford had eight points as Indiana led 15-8 after eight minutes. But at the 10:56 mark and Indiana leading 17-9, the game went into a standstill for the next 3:10.
The Hoosiers missed four shots and had two turnovers. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had two misses and three turnovers.
Zeller broke the drought with a tip-in with 7:31 left in the half for a 19-9 lead and Indiana outscored Northwestern 12-8 the rest of the way for a 31-17 halftime lead.
"They were punishing us on the backboards and were productive," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "They were getting offensive rebounds and going in for tip-ins and second shots ... I thought in the second half it got better."
Watford topped all scorers with 11 first-half points, including two 3-pointers. The Wildcats had no scorers in double figures in the first 20 minutes and missed 8 of 9 shots from beyond the arc.
NOTES: While Indiana leads the series 111-48, Northwestern has the upper hand in recent seasons with six wins in the last nine meetings. Sunday's win was the Hoosiers' first in Evanston in five games. ... Indiana came into the game leading the nation in scoring average (85.4 points), scoring differential (24.8 points) and free throws (349). The Hoosiers are the only Big Ten team with five players averaging in double figures. ... Playing in his first season, Wildcats graduate student Jared Swopshire has started every game and was averaging 11.8 points per game entering Sunday. ... Both teams resume Big Ten play Wednesday with No. 9 Minnesota at Northwestern while Penn State travels to Indiana.