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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

men's basketball

IU ready for Minnesota rematch

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IU goes on the road tonight to face a team that was among the country’s hottest to start the year before hitting a recent slide.

Sound familiar? It should.

Like Minnesota tonight, Illinois was mired in a slump several weeks ago before pulling off a home upset of IU to jump-start its way back into the postseason discussion.

With no plans of a repeat of that fiasco, when IU takes on Minnesota at 7 p.m. today in Minneapolis, it expects to see the Golden Gopher team that cracked the top 10 early in the conference season, not the one that failed to garner a single vote in this week’s polls.

“The one that ranked in the top 10, that’s what we’re looking at,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “We know we’re going to get their best effort. They’ve had time off, and I’m sure they’ve healed up and had time to work on things. That’s what we’re looking at.”

In the teams’ first meeting this season, IU roared to a 52-29 halftime lead before its shooting went cold and Minnesota clawed back on the strength of Andre Hollins’ 25 points and a flummoxing press defense.

“Every situation you go through just gives you a better understanding of how to deal with the next one,” Crean said. “That’s what experience really is. We’ve just got to be really good at meeting our passes, dealing with pressure, attacking the press the way we want to attack the press, not letting them get us back on our heel. I told these guys I fully believe we’ll have to beat the zone at some point tomorrow night to win the game.”

The Hoosiers and Gophers are statistically the conference’s top two teams in rebounding margin, and players and coaches alike pointed to that as a key tonight. IU had a narrow 38-36 edge in the category in the first meeting.

“You go into every game the same, trying to take away their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. “We’re going to try to do the same thing. They’re a really good offensive rebounding team, so we’re going to bring it.”

IU has not played since a Feb. 19 road win at then-No. 4 Michigan State that gave the team sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

“It’s not really a week off,” Sheehey said. “We’ve practiced every day, and we’ve watched film and worked on our stuff. Really, the week off is just a week of preparation to do the next thing. I’m sure every team in the Big Ten has the same approach. It’s not like they just kick back and watch TV for a week. They get after it, and they do what they’ve got to do.”

Whatever one wants to call it, perhaps no one benefitted more from the gap in games than junior guard Victor Oladipo. He sprained his left ankle Feb. 16 against Purdue and played hobbled against MSU, even if his team-leading 19 points did not show it.

He said his ankle is now essentially fine after the past week.

Even without playing, IU had distanced itself from the pack in the conference standings. MSU’s Sunday loss to Ohio State boosted IU’s lead to 1.5 games.

Two more wins earns IU at least a share of the conference crown, but Sheehey is not dwelling on that heading into tonight.

“It’s very important, but we’re focusing on each game because we’ve got a tough stretch ahead of us,” he said. “We’re going to focus on every game and put the same amount of energy that we put in previous games in these. The outcome should just be a correlation of what we put in, and if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be OK.”

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