Men’s basketball: Indiana, Crean face unbeaten Badgers trying to end drought
By Andy Proffet Post-Tribune correspondent January 13, 2014 9:34PM
Updated: February 15, 2014 6:28AM
BLOOMINGTON — On Saturday, Indiana checked “win a Big Ten road game” off the list.
The Hoosiers’ win over Penn State was the first significant victory away from Assembly Hall this season for IU, which rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit.
Now comes a much more difficult task: find a way to beat Wisconsin.
The Badgers (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten) are off to the best start in school history. They moved up to No. 3 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday and are one of four undefeated teams in Division I.
Beyond all that, there’s Wisconsin’s success against the Hoosiers.
The Badgers have won 12 straight in the series. IU’s last win came in January 2007.
Tom Crean is 0-10 against Bo Ryan while at IU and 3-14 overall.
And given Wisconsin’s offensive success this season — they’re averaging a Big Ten-best 82 ppg in conference play — it will be no easy task tonight for the Hoosiers (11-5, 1-2).
Crean credited Wisconsin’s passing for its success this season.
“They are a great passing team,” Crean said during Monday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “Where they are so efficient, and where they have hurt us in the past and so many others, is when the game gets into rotation and you are constantly helping and over-helping ... they not only make the next pass, they make the pass after that and, if need be, the pass after that.
“They are so efficient with the ball.”
Indeed, the Badgers have assisted on 206 of their 408 field goals, or 50.5 percent. And of the eight players in the main rotation, only two have more turnovers than assists —Nigel Hayes (14 assists, 16 turnovers) and Duje Dukan (4 to 5). Wisconsin’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.57 (206 assists, 131 turnovers) is 14th nationally.
Compare that to the Hoosiers, who remain among the nation’s worst in assist-to-turnover ratio. IU has turned the ball over 258 times this season while assisting on just 192 of 417 field goals, or 46 percent. And the Hoosiers have just two main players with positive assist-to-turnover ratios: Yogi Ferrell (67 to 47) and Evan Gordon (21 to 17), who replaced Jeremy Hollowell in the starting lineup Saturday against Penn State.
A week ago, Crean was talking up Hollowell as a player who, despite troubles on-court, had given him no reason to bench him. Then, Hollowell didn’t even play against the Nittany Lions.
Crean said after Saturday’s game that Hollowell “needs to get his focus where it needs to be, and that’s the biggest thing.”
The Hoosiers as a whole will need to stay focused against the Badgers. Wisconsin leads Big Ten teams in conference play in field goal percentage defense, allowing just 34.8 percent shooting.
Of course, the Hoosiers are the Big Ten’s best offensive rebounding team, which could help them keep pace with the Badgers. Not that Wisconsin has turned into a run and gun team.
“When you look at the time of possession for each possession, it is still around 21 or 22 seconds,” Crean said. “They have always had the experienced players ... they have always put excellent shooters on the court.”