Looking out for No. 1: Top-ranked Kentucky visits Assembly Hall
To say there is hype for the IU men’s basketball game against No. 1 Kentucky at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Assembly Hall might be an understatement.
“Everyone’s really pumped up for this game, of course,” IU junior guard Jordan Hulls said. “They’re ranked No. 1 in the country, and they’re coming into our hometown, and people are really excited about it. But it’s just a basketball game, and we’re really excited to get this going.”
The Hoosiers will have had a six-day layoff when they tip off Saturday, with their last game having come in an 84-50 win against Stetson. With the building hype of this game percolating through campus, IU Coach Tom Crean said his players haven’t shown any effects.
“They’re well aware of the vibe and the buzz of this game,” Crean said. “They’re well aware that people were camping outside, but that’s not what they’re focused on.”
What the Hoosiers will be focused on Saturday is a Kentucky squad that has already knocked off the likes of then-No. 11 Kansas and then-No. 5 North Carolina.
The Wildcats boast a frontcourt of sophomore forward Terrence Jones and freshman forward Anthony Davis, who have combined for an average of 27.3 points, 16.6 rebounds and 7 blocks per game. Crean said they will have to find new ways to score against the Kentucky frontcourt.
“To think that it’s going to be conventional basketball and we’re just going to go up and shoot over the top of this team, that’s unrealistic,” Crean said. “Hopefully, our guys are astute enough to understand that. They have to be.”
Though the Hoosiers have faced Kentucky in each season during the Crean era, both teams have had multiple personnel changes even since last year.
While it is a new season for both teams, Hulls said IU can take something away from trailing by one at halftime in each of the last two meetings.
“Being able to play and hang with those guys the last couple years was good, and we had lots of chances, but we didn’t execute some things, which led to us losing,” Hulls said. “But I feel like if we do the things we’re capable of doing and preparing and having the will to prepare, which is what we have right now, I think we’re in good shape.”
How will IU match up with the likes of Jones, Davis and Teague? How much of a factor will the Assembly Hall crowd be for a Kentucky team full of underclassman playing in their first true road game? How will IU fare against its first No. 1-ranked opponent in the Crean era?
“We’ll tell you after the game Saturday,” Zeller said.