That might change Sunday in Assembly Hall when IU faces a Hawkeye team without a road win this season.
It is the same Iowa group that was defeated in Assembly Hall for IU’s only Big Ten win of last year. It might also become the team IU defeats to complete its first three-game win streak since the 2007-08 season.
Although all positives pointed toward IU after its first win against Penn State under Crean, he was unwilling to embrace the thought of an easy victory against Iowa.
“Every day that you play, every day that you prepare, you’re preparing for outstanding coaches, players and programs,” he said. “And we did the same tonight, and we’re going to have to do the same thing on Sunday.”
Whether it was composed by design or not, the home-road combination within IU’s conference schedule has sent a young, confident team out to face Iowa.
Following the first Big Ten road win of Crean’s career, the Hoosiers will play an Iowa team with only one Big Ten win at Assembly Hall, where seven of the Hoosiers’ nine season wins have come.
“It just helps get us confidence that we can play, that our young guys can play at this level; they can play in a great league,” Crean said of the Hoosiers’ 67-61 road victory.
IU has not won three conference games in a row since former IU coach Kelvin Sampson stood on the sidelines, with former players D.J. White and Eric Gordon in his huddles.
Far removed from those days, IU now has a different stable of freshmen sparking its progression.
Freshman guard Jordan Hulls had 9 points against Penn State and continued his ascension. He said the past two wins have done a lot to teach IU what it takes to put games away.
“We knew they were going to make a run for us,” he said of Penn State. “We’re just going to have to get better at maintaining a lead and being able to go up by more.”
When Penn State worked to close in on IU and made the score 60-57, IU extended its lead instead of losing it, as it had in other instances.
Senior guard Devan Dumes and sophomore guard Verdell Jones stood between IU falling into old habits and its possible development into a formidable Big Ten team.
Jones has become IU’s go-to player in clutch moments while only a sophomore. In four days, he has hit two midrange shots in critical moments against Minnesota and Penn State to keep IU ahead, putting in 14 points against Penn State on Thursday.
Dumes, who scored 15 points off the bench against the Nittany Lions, savored the first conference road win of his career afterward, calling it “tremendous.”
“Last year we didn’t have one at all,” he said. “And we’ve got one already. We’re getting all the landmarks that people didn’t think we would, so it’s really big for us.”
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