The Hoosiers went on a 30-10 run late in the second half to chip away at what was as large as a 31-point deficit. In that stretch, IU limited turnovers and found its way through Wisconsin’s typically stifling man-to-man defense.
It avoided an embarrassment. But to IU Coach Tom Crean, it didn’t matter. Play the whole 40 minutes, he said, and the Hoosiers don’t fall so far behind in the first place.
“I’m actually not excited about that,” Crean said. “Because for a period of time, we scored 30 points in 13 possessions ... We’ve got to learn how to do that throughout the game. There was no reason.”
IU flatlined at the start of each half Tuesday night. First, it was a 9-0 Badger run to open the game, then came Wisconsin’s 10-0 run to start the second half. It took IU more than five minutes to score in the second half, and it went more than six and a half minutes without a made field goal.
It was almost to be expected, with such a young IU team playing the Big Ten’s best in its home gym. But if the Hoosiers are to make the NCAA Tournament this season, they’ll have to bounce back quickly.
Eight regular-season games remain, of which IU (16-7, 6-4) is projected to win seven by kenpom.com. The advanced statistics site has the Hoosiers’ most surefire victory coming in their next game, against Michigan.
The Wolverines (13-9, 6-4) are in no way the team they were in recent seasons — last season’s Big Ten champions would be well on the outside of the NCAA Tournament, were it to start today.
Michigan has beaten just one team in kenpom.com’s top 50, a five-point home win against Minnesota last month. It’s also lost to NJIT and Eastern Michigan and is without perhaps its two best players.
Guards Caris LeVert — a preseason first team All-Big Ten selection — and Derrick Walton Jr. are unlikely to play Sunday. A pair of foot issues — LeVert’s left, Walton’s right — have relegated them to the bench.
That leaves sophomore guard Zak Irvin as the Wolverines’ go-to player. A Fishers, Ind., native, Irvin turned down an offer from IU while in high school to play at Michigan. This season, he’s averaged 13.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and has scored in double digits in each of the four games LeVert has missed.
After Irvin, no healthy Wolverine scores more than 10 points per game.
IU isn’t healthy, either. The Hoosiers will be without leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. and starting center Hanner Mosquera-Perea on Sunday.
Blackmon, a freshman guard, injured an ankle in Saturday’s win against Rutgers and missed the Wisconsin game. Mosquera-Perea hasn’t played since Jan. 13 after injuring his right knee in practice.
Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8 at Assembly Hall.