men's basketball

Hoosiers enter uphill stretch with little rest


Freshman guard Jordan Hulls fends off an Ohio State defender Wednesday at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers lost to the Buckeyes 69-52. Yossi May

After falling to No. 13 Ohio State on Wednesday, IU will play at No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday and No. 10 Michigan State at home Tuesday. 

Outside of the Big East Conference’s Providence Friars — currently in the middle of a four-game stretch consisting of No. 7 Georgetown, No. 4 Villanova, No. 5 West Virginia and No. 2 Syracuse — no other team in the country is facing a tougher span of games than the Hoosiers.

But while Providence is facing the Murderers’ Row of the Big East during a 15-day period, IU’s difficult three-game stretch is taking place in a week’s time.

That means very little turnaround between games and limited time to prepare for the next opponent.

Prior to Wednesday’s Ohio State game, IU assistant coach Tim Buckley had taken care of the Wisconsin game tapes and done the necessary scouting.

But while the players went home after the 17-point loss, IU coach Tom Crean suggested he had a long night ahead to watch the film.

“I’ve released them from the locker room, but I can go back another eight hours tonight,” Crean said.

The Hoosiers likely practiced Thursday and will get in some work Friday before heading north to Madison, Wis., for Saturday’s 2 p.m. tipoff.

After playing Ohio State, a team averaging nearly 75 points per game, IU has had only a little time to transition to a Wisconsin swing offense that significantly slows down the game pace.

The Badgers (18-6, 8-4) are also the top defensive team in the Big Ten, allowing just 56.5 points per game.

Less than 72 hours later, however, the Hoosiers will be back on its home court to face Michigan State at Assembly Hall. 

The Spartans (19-6, 9-3), third in the conference in total offense behind just Minnesota and Purdue, play an up-tempo game that is drastically different from what the Hoosiers will see Saturday.

It likely will not be an easy back-and-forth transition between games and playing styles, especially going against more experienced, more talented and very well-coached teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State.

In recent days, IU hasn’t played like a team that can compete at the Badgers and Spartans’ level, but the Hoosiers aren’t far removed from a stellar effort against No. 6 Purdue.

“Six days ago, we played one of the best teams in the country to a three-point game,” Crean said Wednesday. “It’s not like we can’t do good things. But we have a lot of challenges in front of us ... We just have to continue to grow through it.”

Although banged-up Michigan State star Kalin Lucas should be 100 percent by Tuesday, IU will benefit at Wisconsin if 6-foot-10 forward Jon Leuer is still sidelined with his wrist injury. 

Leuer, Wisconsin’s leading scorer and rebounder at 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game has missed the team’s last eight games.

The Badgers began the year 13-3, but they have gone just 5-3 in Leuer’s absence.  
Most notably, Wisconsin fell by seven at home versus Illinois on Tuesday, snapping the Badgers’ 51-game home winning streak versus unranked opponents.

Of course, Illinois (17-8, 9-3) will almost surely be ranked next week and IU hasn’t won at Wisconsin since 1998. The Hoosiers lost there, 85-61, a year ago, despite a game-high 23 points from then-freshman guard Verdell Jones.

This could be a critical stretch for IU, considering the manner in which the team has responded since the Feb. 4 loss to Purdue. It might also show how much fight the team has left.

Cohen’s prediction:
Wisconsin 65, IU 51 

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