Just over a week ago, Indiana was in desperate need of a pick-me-up after losing three-straight games to Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue. Instead, the Hoosiers were granted a few extra days of practice as the IU athletic department was forced to postpone IU's game with Iowa on Feb. 18 after to a piece of metal fell from the ceiling of Assembly Hall due to tough weather conditions just hours before tipoff.
Instead, Tom Crean and his squad took advantage of essentially a free week off from competition to go back and work on the fundamentals to prepare his young squad for the final stretch of the regular season.
Now, this week the Hoosiers are in the middle of the most rigorous week of the season thus far, playing four games in nine days, with the third of four coming up Thursday in the make-up game against Iowa at Assembly Hall at 9 p.m.
Crean said with so many games and game plans coming at his players at once right now, with the ups and downs and inconsistency this team has played with over the past several weeks, getting his young players to focus is of the utmost importance.
During this stretch, it isn't as much about skill as it is about staying positive, he said.
"You've got to control the emotions this time of year. That's huge," Crean said after his team's 69-58 loss to Wisconsin Tuesday. "When you win, you've got to take that positive energy, which we did from Northwestern the other day and build on that.
"When you lose, you've got to take what you did well, but there's also some corrections to be made."
IU's starting point guard Yogi Ferrell said weeks like these take him back to his AAU days, playing long lists of games during weekend tournaments and throughout the summer. He said his team took advantage of the unexpected practice, but now it's time to go and put it to good use.
"We need the practice to go hard and get better at things, individually and as a team, but at the same time, it is always fun going out there and playing so we can show what we work on in practice," Ferrell said.
Luckily, the Hoosiers prepared for Iowa last week to the point of eating their pregame meal together and going through a walk-through practice. Crean said he won't change his team's preparation much at all to play Iowa this week rather than last week, though the Hawkeyes have lost two-straight for the first time this season coming into Thursday night's battle.
For Crean now, it's just about staying the course, continuing to motivate his players, working hard and hoping the results will come.
"We've just got to be ready to play. It'll be two teams coming off a loss that are going to be really hungry to win," Crean said. "We need our fans to realize these guys are working at an incredible level. They want it. They don't have all the confidence in the world because they don't have all the understanding, especially the young guys, but it's not for lack of trying, and it's not for lack of want to."