Hoosiers look for third straight Big Ten win

Indiana will have a chance to move to 3-2 in conference play when it hosts Northwestern on Saturday.

Just two games ago, Indiana's season looked bleak. The Hoosiers started the Big Ten season 0-2 with losses to Illinois and Michigan State, and were still without a signature win.

Fast forward just over a week, and the Hoosiers (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten) are searching for their third straight conference win. Indiana will host Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Assembly Hall.

Northwestern (8-10, 1-4) ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in most categories, but does own a win over Illinois, a team the Hoosiers lost to in the first game of the conference season. The Wildcats are coming off a 54-40 loss to Michigan State.

"They know how to win and they have proven that with the Illinois win," Indiana coach Tom Crean said in a release. "We have a heck of a task with this team. We have to have great focus and I'm concerned about that. I'm concerned with a young group, are we going to have the focus that we have had the last couple of games. What they need to understand is that there is nothing that is not a tremendous challenge in this league. When you have success or have failure you have to learn from it and move right on and that is what we are looking for in this game."

Indiana turned the ball over only nine times in Tuesday's upset win of No. 3 Wisconsin, more than seven below its season average. The Hoosiers' ability to take care of the ball directly resulted in a higher quality of offensive possessions, and more offensive production.

"You're seeing guys that have already loved each other off the court starting to love each other on the court," said assistant coach Kenny Johnson. "That chemistry is starting to come together."

Added senior guard Evan Gordon: "The team, as a whole, has taken a stand on not turning the ball over."

The Hoosiers have played without sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell for the last two games, and there has been no evidence that he will play anytime soon. In his absence, Crean has relied upon guys like Austin Etherington and Jeff Howard, who were sparingly used earlier in the season.

Etherington has played a much bigger role in Indiana's last two wins, burying a critical 3-pointer late in a game at Penn State, and pulling down four rebounds in 18 minutes against Wisconsin.

"Austin has mentally been ready. He's constantly been working," Johnson said. "You have some players that you might not have seen have great results these last few games, all of a sudden they could be the next guy up.

"When you perform consistently well in the weeks and days leading up to a game, that tends to leads to performances. As coaches, it's never a surprise when a player goes in and performs ... Austin has become a gym rat, a complete gym rat."

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