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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers to start Big Ten road trip

spMBB

Today’s matchup with Illinois marks the start of the second half of IU’s Big Ten schedule, and, appropriately enough, it is on the road.

Of the top five teams in the current Big Ten standings, the Hoosiers, who lead the conference by one game with an 8-1 record, are the only squad with the majority of its remaining conference games on the road.

“We know that all the crowds, no matter where we go, are going to be difficult to play in front of,” IU Associate Head Coach Tim Buckley said. “They’re going to be hostile, and you’ve got to block all that out, and you’ve got to play with the four other guys that you’re with on the floor.”

Despite not playing a true road contest until its conference-opening game at Iowa on New Year’s Eve, IU is now 4-0 in away games, exorcising some of the demons that have plagued the team on the road in recent years.

For all the success that last year’s Hoosiers enjoyed in a 27-9 season, they were still a mere 5-6 in away games with road losses to three of the remaining five teams they will play on the road this season.

“It doesn’t really matter how many you’ve won in a row,” Buckley said. “The next one is a new one. It’s a new game. It’s a different place. It’s a different team.”

IU did not face the Illini in Champaign, Ill., last season. In IU Coach Tom Crean’s five seasons, the Hoosiers have yet to win at what is colloquially known as “the other Assembly Hall.”

“We know going into Fighting Illini country will be major challenge,” Crean said. “We will be as good as our preparation, toughness and execution.”

Generally ballyhooed as the country’s top conference for essentially the entire season, the Big Ten currently boasts five ranked teams at the halfway mark, none slotted lower than No. 18 Minnesota. As many as six conference teams have been ranked at times this season.

Wisconsin, who handed IU its lone conference loss of the year and was ranked at one time this year, received votes in the most recent polls but was not ranked.

“We know that every game in this league is going to be tough,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up. It doesn’t get any easier.”

IU still must play each of its fellow ranked conference squads on the road. These teams are a combined 17-1 in conference home games.

The currently unranked Illini may ultimately be the least of IU’s road worries the rest of the way, but Buckley cautioned against overlooking or underestimating any Big Ten team on the road — something he believes should not be an issue, pointing to the Iowa game as an example.

In its conference opener, IU defeated the Hawkeyes on the road, 69-65. Buckley said people at the time called it an “escape,” but since then, Iowa has gone 2-1 at home, its only blemish a 62-59 loss to Michigan State.

“I would say the league is as good as it’s been in a long time, but I think it’s been good for a long time,” Buckley said. “It’s just that, from top to bottom now, there are some games where you’re going to have to fight and scratch and claw where some people think you should just win those games.”

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