Following Sunday’s 65-60 loss at Wisconsin, Indiana returns to Bloomington on Thursday night for a matchup with rival Purdue. The Boilermakers are 19-5 overall, 8-3 in the Big Ten and No. 16 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET with Dave O’Brien and Dick Vitale on the call:
The stakes for Indiana going into Thursday’s game against Purdue couldn’t be higher. The Hoosiers are clinging to their NCAA tournament hopes and another home loss would be devastating. Rivalry aside, Indiana just needs a win.
This fact is not lost on Purdue, which knows that a win in Bloomington not only helps keep pace in the Big Ten race, but also puts the Hoosiers in serious jeopardy of missing out on Selection Sunday.
There’s always great theater when two of the Big Ten’s most storied programs meet, but Thursday’s game could be season defining for the Hoosiers.
MEET THE BOILERMAKERS
This could be the year that Purdue finally breaks its NCAA tournament losing streak. Since falling to Kansas in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, Matt Painter’s program is 0-2 in March Madness. The other two seasons in that span, Purdue played in the 2013 CBI and then missed postseason play completely in 2014.
What’s different about this Purdue team? It might be Painter’s best offense yet in West Lafayette.
The frontcourt is anchored by sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan, a legitimate national player of the year candidate and the frontrunner for Big Ten player of the year. Swanigan currently ranks second in Ken Pomeroy’s national player of the year rankings.
Swanigan was the Big Ten’s best defensive rebounder last season, but has taken his work on the glass to another level in his second season. His defensive rebounding percentage in league play is 33.5 percent. He’s got 20 double-doubles in 24 games. Swanigan has also added a 3-point shot to his arsenal and is making 50 percent from deep this season.
Junior forward Vincent Edwards starts alongside Swanigan at the four and is quietly having a solid season. Edwards is third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game and has the 12th best offensive rating in the Big Ten in league play, according to Ken Pomeroy’s stats. Edwards is a very good free throw shooter (83 percent) and is hitting close to 45 percent of his 3s this season.
Junior center Isaac Haas comes off the bench and is Purdue’s second leading scorer at 13.1 points in 20.8 minutes per game. At 7-foot-2 and 290 pounds, Haas is a massive presence. He’s difficult to stop when he catches it close to the basket. He’s making close to 60 percent of his 2s this season.
Mathias shoots 49.5 percent on 3s, Thompson is 42.7 percent, Cline is 44.7 percent and Edwards is 33.7 percent. If help is given to the post, Purdue typically does a solid job of finding open shooters and making teams pay.
Thompson is a very low usage offensive player, but does a good job finishing the opportunities he does get. He also averages less than a turnover per game. Edwards is using 24.5 percent of possessions while on the floor in Big Ten play and has a sub-100 offensive rating. If Indiana is going to help off of someone, he’s probably the best option.
Mathias is second on the team at 30.8 minutes per game and is fifth in scoring at 10.3 points per game.
Purdue is a very good defensive team because it guards the 3-point line well and doesn’t allow teams to offensive rebounding. The Boilermakers are allowing Big Ten opponents to make just 32.6 percent of their 3s and are the league’s best defensive rebounding team.
Those numbers are problematic for Indiana because when the Hoosiers play well offensively, it typically has a lot to do with offensive rebounding and hot shooting.
So what does Indiana need to do to win? Play much better defensively than it has and take care of the ball. Purdue is last in conference play in defensive turnover percentage. If Indiana turns it over, those mistakes are likely to be self inflicted. Purdue also doesn’t block a lot of shots, so finishing at the rim is another key.
At 1.12 points per possession, Purdue is the Big Ten’s second best offense behind Michigan. Regardless of the status of James Blackmon Jr., it seems unlikely that Indiana is going to win by getting into a shootout with Purdue. The Hoosiers have to get stops. With the Big Ten’s worst defense, Indiana locking down a top offensive team is something we haven’t seen since the North Carolina game in late November.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The Pomeroy prediction is Purdue by 3 with a 40 percent chance of a win for Indiana. Sagarin likes Purdue by 2.
Swanigan has been a consistent double-double machine all season, so Indiana is going to need to prevent those around him from big games if the Hoosiers hope to emerge victorious.
Taking care of the ball is equally important as both Iowa and Nebraska, teams who beat Purdue at home in Big Ten play, both committed 10 or fewer turnovers. Both of those teams also did work on the offensive glass as the Huskers rebounded nearly 39 percent of their misses against Purdue and the Hawkeeys grabbed 30 percent.
With their NCAA tournament resume in desperate need of a win, Thursday’s game is the beginning of an important week for Indiana. A pair of wins would put the Hoosiers solidly in the field heading into a stretch of four of five on the road to finish league play. A pair of losses could officially send the season into a tailspin.
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich discuss Indiana’s loss to Wisconsin on Sunday and look ahead to Thursday’s matchup with Purdue at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Among the topics discussed:
· Looking back at IU’s loss at Wisconsin
· The turnover problems for the Hoosiers
· The recent play of Juwan Morgan
· What’s Indiana’s ceiling now?
· How Indiana matches up against Purdue
· Can the Hoosiers score enough to beat the Boilermakers?
· The storylines heading into Thursday’s game
Tourney Watch: Home games represent major opportunity for IU
Welcome to “Tourney Watch,” our weekly look at Indiana’s 2016-2017 NCAA tournament resume.
This week’s edition takes a look at last week’s performances by the Hoosiers, IU’s current nitty gritty profile, bracket projections and much more.
At 15-9, Indiana already has more losses this season than it did all of last season. Indiana split a pair of games last week as the Hoosiers beat Penn State at home in three overtimes and then fell 65-60 to Wisconsin in Madison.
With seven games to play, the Hoosiers need to go 4-3 the rest of the way to finish at least .500 in conference play. Indiana has two games remaining against Purdue and one against Northwestern, two teams that will both be in the tournament.
This week looms large for Indiana as two of the Hoosiers remaining three home games are Thursday (Purdue) and Sunday (Michigan). A pair of wins could significantly boost the resume while a pair of losses would put the Hoosiers in serious jeopardy of missing the tournament without a major run in the Big Ten tournament.
Nitty Gritty Profile
·Record: 15-9 (5-6 Big Ten) ·RPI: 75 (82 last week) ·SOS: 54 (via CBS) (63 last week) ·Home Record: 13-2 ·Away Record: 1-5 · Neutral Court Record: 1-2 ·vs. RPI Top 50: 3-6 (via ESPN) ·vs. RPI Top 51-100: 3-2 (via ESPN)
Indiana is still in the tournament in many projections, but the Hoosiers are a No. 10 seed or lower in most projections. The Crashing the Dance model has Indiana out of the tournament for a second straight week.
November feels so long ago. On Nov. 11, in their season-opener, the Hoosiers beat Kansas 103-99 in overtime on a neutral court in Honolulu. A couple of weeks later, they convincingly handled North Carolina in Bloomington. James Blackmon Jr. was having a lights-out scoring campaign. Life was grand. It has been all downhill since. The Hoosiers are 5-6 after their first 11 Big Ten games, including a 30-point loss at Michigan on Jan. 26 and a 13-point loss at Northwestern on Jan. 29. OG Anunoby was lost to an injury; Blackmon, who has spent much of his career battling injuries, followed suit. Worst of all, the Hoosiers didn’t win enough to cover up the empty calories they gorged on in nonconference play, including six against teams ranked outside the RPI top 280. Like all empty calories, these linger far beyond their up-front enjoyment, and have thus placed the Hoosiers — who had November’s best pair of nonconference wins — firmly on the bubble moving forward. Yikes.
Final record projections
Two weeks ago, KenPom.com projected the Hoosiers to finish 20-11 overall and 10-8 in the conference. For the past week, that projection has dropped to 18-13 and 8-10. RPIForecast.com has the four most likely final regular season records for IU as: 19-12 (28.9%), 18-13 (26.9%), 20-11 (18.8%) and 17-14 (15.1%).
A look at the conference as a whole
The Big Ten is currently a seven bid league on the most recent Bracket Matrix with Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State and Indiana in the field.
Michigan, with a home loss to Ohio State last week, has fallen out of many projections. No other Big Ten teams are under serious consideration at this point. Iowa, which is sitting at 6-5 in league play, could perhaps get into the conversation if it can get to 11 conference wins.
As the season moves along, we’ll dig more into each team’s projections, but Bracket Matrix (updated Feb. 6) currently has Wisconsin as a No. 3 seed, Purdue as No. 5 seed, Maryland as a No. 6 seed, Northwestern as a No. 7 seed, Minnesota as No. 8 seed and Michigan State as a No. 9 seed.
2017 Tournament Sites
·First Four: Dayton · First, second rounds: Buffalo, Greenville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Tulsa ·Regional: Kansas City, Memphis, New York, San Jose ·Final Four: Phoenix
News and notes from Tom Crean’s radio show
Inside IU basketball with Tom Crean was live on Monday evening from the Holiday Inn in Bloomington with player guest Quentin Taylor.
Below are news and notes from Crean and Taylor (all quotes are from Crean unless noted otherwise):
· On having to play without three starting-caliber players, “It’s an energetic exercise, an invigorating exercise, to try and figure out how we’re going to play in the games. You’ve gotta be sound. We’re not business as usual right now. It’s not ok, we’re just going to go matchup with you and let’s give it our best shot. It’s not let’s just line up and make them stop what we do. That’s not where we’re at right now. We’re just not. We’re without guys that allow that to happen. That’s not to take anything away from the guys that aren’t playing, but we have to be creative with that.”
· Crean spent much of the show noting the lack of foul calls Indiana has received of late. When Fischer noted that Bryant was double-teamed ‘a ton’ against Wisconsin, Crean interjected before Fischer was able to finish his question. “And he didn’t shoot a free throw. Imagine that? Go figure on that.”
· On what the team can do to win the free throw battle, “We’re so far down on the free throw shooting. We can point to turnovers being a part of some things, to missed shots being a part of some things, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to do our best to make sure we’re creating opportunities to score close to the rim or get downhill at the basket. We’ve just gotta keep figuring out different ways that it’s a no-brainer that we were fouled and that we gotta get to the line. Because that’s what it seems that other teams are doing a pretty good job of.”
· Later in the show, Crean was asked by a fan what the team can do to draw more fouls, “I spend the majority of my waking hours trying to figure that out inside of the film. And I’ve made up my mind, I’m not talking about any of that stuff in the sense of what is and what isn’t (a foul). We’ve got to keep trying to figure out, as far as when it comes to how the game is being officiated, what we’ve got to do is make it more obvious. I’m still at a point, 20 something odd games in, where I truly – and maybe this puts me in the minority, I don’t know – but I truly don’t understand from game to game sometimes what a foul is and isn’t, when it comes to impeding the progress of the dribbler, when it comes to putting the forearm on somebody when they drive the ball. When it comes to putting two hands on the back on a post up. I don’t understand all that, I guess. Because it seems to change from time to time. So we’ve just gotta do a better job, the bottom line is when you get your head and shoulders by the defender on the drive, that’s pretty much supposed to be a foul. We’ve just gotta continue to look for it and figure out ways – getting downhill with great speed, James was getting so much better at that – it’s not the strength that it was of last years team, but it’s better than what we’re getting rewarded for right now.”
· On Thomas Bryant being held to 11 points against Wisconsin, “There’s no question Thomas could have played quicker with the post up…he’s too unselfish. I’m not saying anything that I haven’t said to him. He’s far too unselfish with the ball when he catches it in the post. And we don’t need that.”
· On Newkirk’s improved shooting, “When he is struggling is when he’s thinking about it. Even a little bit yesterday, he kind of went a little bit too quick. When he’s playing in the flow, when he’s moving the ball, when he’s attacking the rim, when the ball is moving, he’s a product of being ready to shoot.”
· Crean said Devonte Green wasn’t able to practice on Friday due to an injury, and still wasn’t 100 percent by Saturday. That lead to Crean inserting Curtis Jones into the starting lineup on Sunday.
“I thought he did fine,” Crean said of Jones. “He missed some open shots that he can make. I thought he got involved. We’ve got to get him a bit more disciplined, same thing with Devonte, on defense when it comes to closeouts. Curtis needs to realize he’s not a shot-blocker. We’re not back playing in high school. We’ve gotta have technique, we’re not trying to block shots and leave our feet. We’re not attacking the ball aimlessly. We’re going down with a purpose. Our closeouts have got to be on time. We can’t jump stop. Same thing with Devonte. They learn those things over a period of time. Everybody goes through those moments…I thought he did fine. I’m glad we’ve gone through a week where both Devonte and Curtis have a start under their belt.”
· On Caleb Swanigan, “(He’s) playing with such a relentless attitude, relentless spirit right now. Playing his position, he can shoot the ball, he can drive it. He commands a lot of attention, he really does. He plays so hard. He’s a wrecking crew on the glass and he is getting to the glass to rebound the ball.”
· On facing Purdue Thursday, “It’s not going to be for the faint hearted. This is not a game where if you don’t like contact, if you don’t want to put your body on the line, it’s going to be hard to put somebody into the game. We know what (Purdue’s) attitude is coming into this game. We have to be, no matter who we have, whether James is back or not, we have to be at a high level of intensity, but an equally high level of focus. This cannot be a game where we have a lot of empty possessions and we try to do things that aren’t there. The shooting makes them that much harder to guard, because they can space the floor in the corners, they can space the floor at the slots, they can cut.”
· On Freddie McSwain, “The hard thing for Freddie is, athletically, we’re not seeing the guy that we signed. He’s not all the way back from that surgery he had in the preseason. He’s a workhorse, he really really works at the game and on the court. You can see it sometimes with his quickness, things of that nature. He jumps, but he doesn’t really jump to the level of where he did when we signed him. Hopefully, that will continue to get better.”
· Crean said he was able to catch most of the second half of Yogi Ferrell’s 32-point performance against Portland on Friday, “I keep the TV off for the most part in my film room because I’ll just watch it. I’ll just get distracted and watch it. I want to stay locked into the film. But when I put my phone back on and saw some of the texts. (Athletic Director) Fred Glass actually had texted me about how well Yogi was playing that night, and he was watching the game. So as I was pulling in, I go in and watch it and it was very enjoyable to see that, it really was. I’ve got the first half on film, I just haven’t had a chance to see it yet.”
· Taylor started playing basketball in second grade and played alongside Purdue’s PJ Thompson at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in Indianapolis. Taylor said he spent his summers training with Thompson’s father, LaSalle, who played at both Indiana State and Ball State. “That’s who I really worked with, just trying to model my game after him. He’s a guard, and I try to be a guard as well…I’ve had a pretty interesting come-up in terms of how I got into basketball.”
· Taylor, on being a part of Indiana basketball, “just the tradition and the history, you want to be a part of it. I didn’t know I was going to be blessed with the position I was given when I came here. It’s a good academic school, I chose it for that reason. Also, as a freshman here, before I was on the team, I attended a lot of games just because I liked seeing them play. I liked the program a lot. I felt like I should give it a shot and chase after a dream I’ve always wanted to be a part of. It worked out in my favor.”
· Taylor is majoring in safety and applied health sciences and wants to be an “emergency manager in counterterrorism.” Taylor added that, “a lot of terrorist attacks catch my attention because they can be prevented, or you can definitely be ready for them. With a good plan, you can save a lot of lives.”
· Taylor’s father is a police officer and his mother is an investigative reporter for WTHR, “I’ve always been around news and crime, so I’m definitely taking a criminal justice minor.”
· On the role of walk-ons: “We see the bigger picture. We see the plan that coach Crean is implementing. Our role is very valuable when it comes to preparing for the teams that we play day in and day out. To be a part of something bigger is where it becomes special. When we win games, Indiana basketball is exalted. Even though certain players get the accolades and the accomplishments, when the program is winning as a whole, it just makes everybody happier, it makes everybody feel better. It makes us feel better to be able to help the guys prepare for that. So when game days come around and we’re cheering on the sidelines, we see how their execution has been prepared for just through us trying to challenge them and make them better.”
·When asked who the funniest player on the team is, Taylor, without hesitation, said it was Thomas Bryant, “That’s a no-brainer for a lot of people that watch him play. His emotion is just so outward, so projected on anybody. You could be sitting in the locker room being quiet and he’ll come up and get in your face and make you laugh or scream and shout. It’s always just so funny to us because he’s so big doing that too.”
Film Session: Wisconsin
After the Hoosiers went down 22-10 at the 8:34 mark in the first half in Sunday’s loss at Wisconsin, they turned it up on offense with an immediate 8-0 run. The scoring burst was a part of a 14-5 run to end the half and pulled Indiana within three (27-24).
We’ll take a look at four scores from this stretch in the latest edition of Film Session:
Thomas Bryant grabs a defensive board and he outlets to Robert Johnson:
Johnson dribbles down to the right wing as Bryant sets up for a ball screen on Zak Showalter:
As Johnson dribbles left around Bryant, Ethan Happ is in the paint and not near the action:
This leaves room for Bryant. As Happ comes up to stop Johnson’s drive, Johnson kicks it back to Bryant on the right wing:
He rises and hits with plenty of room to pull Indiana back within single digits:
Bryant is now 7-of-19 on 3s in Big Ten play this season:
Big Ten Power Rankings: February 6
We’re into the back half of the Big Ten schedule and clear separation at the top is beginning to take hold. The middle of the league, however, remains a mediocre mess.
Here’s a look at where each team stands after six weeks of conference play:
The Scarlet Knights remain in the cellar, but there was good news this past week. Rutgers won its first road game in league play since joining the Big Ten. After leading by double figures in the second half at Penn State, Rutgers held off a late charge to sneak out of State College with a 70-68 win.
The wheels have come off in Champaign. The Illini have lost six of seven and lost twice at home this past week. John Groce might have a strong recruiting class on the way, but is athletic director Josh Whitman going to be able to sell fans on another year? Probably not.
The Nittany Lions had a chance for a big win on Wednesday in Bloomington, but couldn’t finish off the Hoosiers and lost in three overtimes. Things got worse from there. Penn State returned home and lost to Rutgers on Saturday. The Nittany Lions still have four road games left and an appearance on Wednesday of the Big Ten tournament now looks likely.
The Huskers 2-0 start in conference play is now a distant memory. Nebraska has dropped seven of its last eight contests. This past week, Nebraska lost by 11 at home to Michigan State and then fell by 11 at Iowa. The Huskers have a young team, but have really struggled to replace sophomore forward Ed Morrow (foot injury).
The Buckeyes aren’t making the NCAA tournament and if they have a say, some of the Big Ten bubble teams may not, either. Ohio State went to Michigan and won 70-66 on Saturday, a crushing defeat for the Wolverines. Junior Trevor Thompson had a double-double in the win and is ranked in the top five in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding.
Fran McCaffery’s club still has a negative efficiency margin overall in conference play, but the Hawkeyes are finding a way to win games. Iowa has won three straight (Ohio State, at Rutgers, Nebraska) and two of the wins came without leading scorer Peter Jok. Iowa is another team that is unlikely to make the tournament, but has a real chance to play spoiler down the stretch with games against Michigan State and Indiana coming up.
Indiana got a win it had to have on Wednesday over Penn State, but fell short in a huge opportunity for a signature road win on Sunday at Wisconsin. James Blackmon Jr. has missed the last three games and Indiana’s offense has suffered as a result. The Hoosiers have dropped to third in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play.
After destroying Indiana by 30 on Jan. 26, Michigan went to Michigan State and lost, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of. What followed, however, could cost the Wolverines on Selection Sunday. Michigan lost at home to Ohio State on Saturday as Derrick Walton’s 25 points weren’t enough to make up for poor performances by D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner.
Minnesota has finally stopped the bleeding. The Gophers lost five straight before winning at Illinois on Saturday. Even though Minnesota sits two games below .500 in league play, it has a realistic shot at winning nine or 10 conference games. The Gophers still have five home games remaining (Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska) and a road trip to Rutgers. Barring a collapse, Minnesota will be in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State is by no means a great team, but they’re the best of the middle of the pack Big Ten teams. The Spartans responded from a rough three-game stretch that included losses to Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue with a pair of wins last week. KenPom is now projecting 10 Big Ten wins for the Spartans, which is probably going to be enough on Selection Sunday to punch a ticket.
Northwestern’s six-game winning streak came to a halt on Wednesday at Mackey Arena, one of the toughest venues in the conference. The Wildcats are going to be without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey (mononucleosis) for a few weeks, but with five home games remaining, Northwestern is in terrific shape.
Maryland lost a close game for once and it’s likely going to cost the Terrapins a chance to challenge Wisconsin for the regular season crown. The Terps blew a double figure second half lead at home in a loss on Saturday to Purdue as Carsen Edwards sank a pair of free throws late to lift the Boilermakers to the victory.
How did Purdue respond to a mind boggling loss at Nebraska? With wins over Northwestern at home and at Maryland. The Boilermakers now have the Big Ten’s second best offensive and an unstoppable force in the paint in Caleb Swanigan. This looks like the year Purdue might actually win an NCAA tournament game.
Don’t engrave Wisconsin’s name on the Big Ten regular championship trophy just yet, but the Badgers are in control of their own destiny. Wisconsin has won seven in a row and its remaining road games at Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Three of those teams have already taken two or more losses at home in league play.
Indiana dropped to 5-6 in Big Ten play on Sunday afternoon as the Hoosiers fell to Wisconsin, 65-60, at the Kohl Center. It was the 16th straight loss for Indiana in Madison.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the loss to the Badgers:
· Turnovers remain a major problem for Indiana: Turnovers were the difference in Sunday’s loss as Wisconsin turned Indiana’s 15 miscues into 26 points.
At just past the midway point of conference play, Indiana is one of 11 major conference teams turning it over on 20 percent or more of its possessions. Only three of those 11 teams have winning records in conference play. Two of them, Baylor and Villanova, have the best defense in their respective leagues.
At 21.2 percent, Indiana currently has the fifth worst turnover percentage among major conference teams in league play.
· This was Indiana third best defensive performance in league play: Indiana played better defensively on Sunday, holding Wisconsin to just 1.03 points per possession. Only Rutgers (.77) and Penn State (.99 in the 3OT game) have scored fewer points per possession in a conference game against Indiana than Wisconsin did on Sunday.
The key? Indiana defended the 3-point line much better. Wisconsin was a dismal 4-of-17 on 3s for just 23.5 percent. In the first meeting between the two teams, the Badgers were 10-of-20 on 3s.
“Our defense was much better,” Tom Crean said postgame. “They’re undefeated when they shoot better than 45 percent from the field and we knew we couldn’t let them just have an open field day on that. I’m sure they’ll look at it, and Greg (Gard) will look at it and say they missed some shots they make, just like I’ll be able to look at it and say we missed shots that we make.”
· Newkirk’s strong play continues: Indiana redshirt junior point guard Josh Newkirk picked up right where he left off in Wednesday’s triple overtime win over Penn State.
Newkirk played 38 minutes and went 7-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. He finished with a game-high 22 points. Newkirk has made just 10 3-pointers in Big Ten play and eight of them have come in his last two games.
When Indiana gets James Blackmon Jr. back in the lineup, it will need Newkirk to continue making open looks to keep spreading out the offensive load.
· Ethan Happ’s dominance against IU: Wisconsin sophomore forward Ethan Happ is in the race for national and Big Ten player of the year as the Badgers are the clear favorite to win the league with eight games to go.
Happ has always played well against Indiana and Sunday was no different. In 34 minutes, he finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, three steals, three turnovers and two assists.
In four career games against Indiana, Happ is averaging 18.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks.
“He’s improved, as they all do here at Wisconsin,” Crean said postgame of Happ. “And he’s a very good player.”
· Indiana needs to go 4-3 in its last seven to finish .500 in Big Ten play: At 5-6 in Big Ten play, Indiana sits in seventh place in the league standings.
The Hoosiers have three games remaining in Bloomington, two of which come this week against Purdue and Michigan. It’s a pivotal week if Indiana wants to finish .500 or better in conference play.
If Indiana can sweep its remaining home games, it will only need one more road win to win nine league games and be in solid position going into Selection Sunday. But any slip up at home means Indiana will have to win two of these four (at Minnesota, at Iowa, at Purdue and at Ohio State). With Sunday’s loss, Indiana is now 1-5 in true road games.
(Photo credit: Wisconsin Athletics)
Notebook: Turnovers, slow start doom IU in 65-60 loss at Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. – Four days after needing three overtimes to scrape past Penn State, Indiana failed to capitalize on a poor offensive afternoon from Wisconsin. The result? A 65-60 loss, the 16th straight for the program in Madison.
The Badgers (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) uncharacteristically shot 4-of-17 from three, turned the ball over 11 times and only dished out nine assists.
“They were pressuring the passers a little more since our last meeting. But other than that, they were still bringing the double, sometimes in different areas whenever Nigel or I got the ball.” Wisconsin sophomore Ethan Happ said. “But they were basically doing the same stuff. We just didn’t hit as many 3s this game.”
The Hoosiers (15-9, 5-6) failed to take advantage of the opportunity, largely because they have failed to fix the issues that have plagued them all season – poor starts, turnovers and communication.
Much like the last time IU faced Wisconsin, the Hoosiers found themselves playing from behind. Less than 12 minutes into the game, the Badgers had a 12-point lead.
During that opening stretch, Indiana looked lost offensively, committing six turnovers and scoring just 10 points. A lack of off-ball movement and poor decision-making stuck Indiana in a rut it couldn’t get out of.
The Hoosiers tied the game shortly before the half, but the 11-2 Badger run that followed all but put the game away.
“Offensively, we just have to continue to try to make the simple play,” Robert Johnson said.
To their credit, the Hoosiers, down three starters, battled back. A renewed defensive intensity, along with spurts of hot shooting, helped cut the Wisconsin lead to a single possession in the final 30 seconds.
But the veteran Badgers did what they needed to, knocking down free throws in clutch moments to stave off the Hoosiers.
“Thank goodness there’s two sides of basketball,” Wisconsin senior Nigel Hayes said. “We were able to make up some things on defense. To hold them to 60 points was a really good deal for us. It’s the only reason why we won.”
Newkirk’s improved shot
Josh Newkirk struggled for most of the first half of the Big Ten schedule, but the Pittsburgh transfer has stepped up his game of late, especially on the offensive end.
Prior to his 27-point outburst against Penn State on Wednesday, Newkirk had yet to score more than 13 points in a single contest as a Hoosier.
Newkirk continued his hot shooting Sunday, nailing four of six 3s and scoring 22 points.
“It’s footwork and follow through, that’s really what it is,” Crean said. “And it’s mindset. When he’s on the attack offensively or defensively, you’re in the flow of the game, you’re really not thinking about shooting. Things become a lot clearer.”
Indiana’s offense continued to sputter without James Blackmon Jr., who hasn’t played since suffering a lower leg injury in the Jan. 26 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In two of the three games since losing their leading scorer, the Hoosiers have failed to eclipse 1.0 PPP.
Blackmon hasn’t participated in a practice since the injury, but dressed on Sunday and participated in pre-game and halftime warm-ups.
Asked to provide an update on Blackmon after the game, Crean said there wasn’t one.
(Photo credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)
Video: Greg Gard reacts to win over Indiana
Greg Gard met with the media following Wisconsin’s 65-60 win over Indiana on Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center.