With every basketball game that Indiana plays this season we will take a look at three things to watch that could be important for that game.
Here are the three keys for today's Big Ten game with Illinois:
1.CONTINUE TO HANDLE THE BALL BETTER
Indiana had a bit of a hiccup Tuesday night at Michigan State when the Hoosiers turned it over 18 times after only averaging 11 miscues in each of the previous four games, but even 18 would be marked improvement over the first time IU played Illinois. That day, in the Big Ten opener in Champaign, IU turned it over a season-high 23 times in an 83-80 overtime loss to the Illini. Yogi Ferrell had six of those turnovers. And the Illini were able to score 25 points off of Indiana's mistakes. In the five games since Illinois, including the 18 Tuesday against the Spartans, the Hoosiers are averaging 12.8 turnovers per game. And IU has had its best two performances in that area in its last two home games at Assembly Hall. Against both Wisconsin and Northwestern a week ago, IU had nine turnovers in each game. Keeping the turnover number low will be a major intangible in today's game with the Illini.In
2. MAKE SHOTS DIFFICULT
There is something to be said about keeping a struggling team down. Illinois is struggling. The Illini have dropped five games in a row overall. A big reason for that streak is the fact that Illinois has been unable to make shots. The Illini rank 11th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 41.5 percent. The Illini are also 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage at 31 percent. The first time these teams played, Illinois shot 45 percent from the field and hit 2-of-17 3-point shots and still posted a three-point victory. IU's defense needs to rise to the occasion.
3. TAKE CARE OF HOME
Any chance to rack up enough wins in order to qualify for postseason play will mean winning a big share of games at Assembly Hall. That has been a staple to IU's success in recent years. This season though, the Hoosiers are just 1-2 in Big Ten home games with the win coming against Wisconsin and the losses to Michigan State and Northwestern. Getting to 2-2 is an important step in that process. It's also important to beat teams you're expected to beat at Assembly Hall, too. Illinois is one of those teams. The Illini, after opening Big Ten play with wins over IU and Penn State, have lost five games in a row overall. Illinois has dropped six consecutive Big Ten road games dating back to last season. A 3 p.m. tip time should be good in terms of student interest and enthusiasm but we said pretty much the same thing about Northwestern eight days ago, too.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch