They lost a blowout, 79-54, to Ohio State in their first conference road game. They squandered a large lead in a 66-60 loss against Illinois at home. But tonight, IU can redeem its past with a season sweep of Michigan, its only conference win this season so far.
IU coach Tom Crean said the team lost confidence during the Ohio State game, but playing against a team they’ve already beaten once – and recently – could give IU its first sweep against Michigan since 2006. Crean said the team has to focus on execution.
“You have to be able to go and make decisions,” Crean said. He later added, “The No. 1 quality of every team is, ‘Could they execute under pressure?’”
The Hoosiers were able to beat Michigan on Dec. 31 because of low turnovers, good defense and more points in the paint, but failed to carry those qualities into the New Year.
Poor shooting (34 percent) and high turnovers (24 total) were the culprits in IU’s loss to Ohio State on Jan. 6. When they returned to Assembly Hall to take on Illinois, they shot better (41.5 percent) and had fewer mistakes (15 turnovers), but a second-half collapse against the Fighting Illini led to a heartbreaking finish for the Hoosiers.
“We have to come out and play hard the entire game,” freshman forward Bobby Capobianco said. “We can’t just do it in spurts.”
The game will also test the team’s continuing ability to play without freshman guard and leading scorer Maurice Creek. The December game against Michigan was the team’s first without Creek, but Crean said the loss wasn’t because of “some emotional
During Wednesday’s press conference, Crean referenced a Marquette game he won against Villanova and how that same Villanova team has grown. Crean said that team can rely on its upperclassmen, and he hopes this IU team will learn to do.
Crean and his players said their familiarity with playing the Wolverines would not be a factor.
“I really don’t think either team has an advantage,” senior guard Devan Dumes said. “It really comes down to whichever team plays the best, they are going to win.”
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