IU’s 2016-17 Big Ten season bears some resemblance to its 2015-16 compatriot.
A season ago, IU started the conference slate 2-4. This season, the Hoosiers started 2-3. Both years IU reeled off a three-game win streak to get to five conference wins after sub-.500 starts. Currently, a pack of programs occupies the middle of the Big Ten standings, and the Hoosiers have been talking about moving themselves into the upper echelon of the conference standings.
After a 78-54 win in Wisconsin on Sunday, the second of the back-to-back road games comes Thursday when IU travels to East Lansing, Michigan, to face Michigan State in the Breslin Center.
“They have been coming off of two really big wins,” IU junior forward Amanda Cahill said. “I think we need to go up there and play well.”
The Hoosiers won seven of eight games in February in 2016, which helped catapult them into the NCAA Tournament and build some momentum in the lead up to the postseason. If IU wants to replicate last season’s late run, now seems like a good time to start.
The Hoosiers have had plenty of road tests thus far this season, and they’ve embraced the challenges of playing away from Assembly Hall. IU Coach Teri Moren has talked about having to steal a few games on the road this season. Thursday’s game is another chance to swipe one to add to their 4-5 road record. Michigan State sits one game back of IU in the standings at 4-4 in the Big Ten.
When looking back at the road game against Wisconsin, Cahill said there were a few things they needed to clean up.
“I think we had some mishaps on defense and had some mental lapses that we’re trying to fix,” Cahill said. “Things like that can’t really happen because everyone in the Big Ten is so good. We always have to come ready to play.”
Michigan State comes in boasting the second-best 3-point defense in the conference. The Spartans are holding opponents to just 29.1 percent from behind the arc. Over the past three road games, the Hoosiers have hit about 23 percent of their 3-point shots.
Spartan guard Tori Jankoska and IU senior guard Alexis Gassion could create a lot of action on the floor. Jankoska is Michigan State’s best offensive player and will cause problems for the IU defense. The senior averages 21.8 points per game and is coming off her 12th 20-point outing of the season.
“She has a lot in her bag of tricks,” Moren said. “There’s a lot to her game. She can fill it up fast. Really confident that Lex is going to have the assignment to begin the game with and she’s going to guard her and she’s going to do what she normally does.”
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