IU is part of a five-team log jam tied for second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin with a 6-3 conference record at the halfway point.
Speaking on the Big Ten men’s coaches teleconference on Monday, Indiana coach Tom Crean said the big challenge with the Badgers is how they can beat your from any number of positions on the floor.
“It would be one thing if it were just big guys who could do one or two things but they can do a lot of things,’’ Crean said. “They can drive the ball, they can pass the ball and they can all shoot the ball and they shoot it with range, especially the way that Nigel Hayes is now shooting it. Sam (Dekker) and Frank (Kaminsky) could always do that since they’ve in college and they’re improved immensely over that period of time.
“They have seven or eight guys right now and taking Traevon out it’s even surprising how well they’ve played. It just goes to show the skill level in the system when you take a guy like Traevon out of the equation.’’
Jackson was averaging 9.4 points per game and 2.9 assists when the senior guard landed awkwardly and suffered a broken foot Jan. 11 against Rutgers. Jackson is expected to be back by the end of the season.
Crean said he hasn’t been surprised at the level of play of Jackson’s replacement in the lineup, Bronson Koenig. Koenig has been a steady presence, averaging 6.6 points per game.
“Bronson was one of the better players in the country,’’ Crean said. “He was a well known player nationally especially the last couple of years. He was one of the better guards in the country. He just may not have gotten the attention late in his high school years because of the commitment to Wisconsin.’’
Crean said the most difficult task facing the Badgers is you can’t play a game of ‘pick your poison.’ Somebody is always going to be there to make shots.“You cannot give in to anything,’’ Crean said. “If you back off of someone they can knock down a three. If you help, they can kick the ball. If you don’t block out they can all get to the offensive glass. It’s really about defending the personnel as much as it about defending how they run their offense. It’s coming down to really understanding what you need to get offensively.
“We can’t get overly caught up in the lack of size that we have and the abundance that they have. We have to get caught up in the skill level of the players.’’
“We took away a lot from the week,’’ Crean said. “I’m proud of the way this team continues to respond on and off the court. You look at the season and the resiliency they’ve show with the fact that we played three tough games last week. We played two tough games on the road and then we came back against a very hungry, very good Rutgers team which we knew we would. But we find a way to win that game and we do it with some execution of offense but also some defensive stops.’’
Crean said the bottom line for Indiana is adjusting to whatever the opposing team wants to get done. He said you can’t really compare the challenges with Kaminsky, for example, with the ones IU just faced against Purdue with its size inside.
“That’s not a true comparison because the Purdue players are more at the basket and they’re very good at the basket,’’ Crean said. “And Frank is a guy where you can play through him. You can play through him on the perimeter, you can play through him in the high post, you can play through him in the post, and you can drive the ball.
“So you have to be aware of him all the time. One thing with Kaminsky that some people may not see is that he is a tremendous passer on the move and he can make plays off the dribble. To me it’s one of the most improved aspects of his game that he can pass it off the drive. Cody Zeller was like that as a sophomore for us where he could really make plays when he would drive the ball and it didn’t have to be for his scoring.
“And if you over help on any of them, because of their passing ability, they can all knock down shots.Notebook: IU responds to Ferrell’s challenge
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