There is no place like home in the Big Ten and Indiana is glad to be back at Assembly Hall for three of its next four games.
Indiana is currently 4-0 at home during Big Ten conference play and fell to 0-3 on the road after back-to-back losses at Iowa and Minnesota. The two losses were the Hoosiers' first back-to-back losses of the season and knocked them out of first place in the Big Ten.
"It's always good to be home," said sophomore A.J. Ratliff. "We're undefeated in the conference at home. But we need those games. Road wins are crucial for winning the Big Ten. But when we're at home it's a different type of feeling. We need to take that feeling on the road. When we're at home we have a comfort zone, we need to learn how to play outside that comfort zone."
The road troubles have been dumbfounding for the Hoosiers. After leading the nation in field goal shooting heading into last week's games, Indiana shot a combined 34 percent in losses at Iowa and Minnesota.
"We're going to have those nights," said Ratliff. "But we're still going to go to Marco (Killingsworth) and we're still going to take those shots. They just weren't falling for us Sunday, but that's our game – inside/out. We're going to stick to that and run it like we always do."
With the shots not falling on the road it has become harder for the Hoosiers to cover up the weaknesses they have rebounding the ball and defending the post. Indiana has been out-rebounded in five of the seven Big Ten games it has played.
"I think we're going to be more focused now – we're more alert," said junior Roderick Wilmont. "The coaches are more alert about the little things right now and they're getting on the guys and telling us what we need to be doing. We're fixing the little things so we can come out hard against Northwestern and win the game. That's all it comes down to now is winning games, finding ways to win."
With one game to go before the halfway mark Indiana is sitting at 4-3 in the conference and tied for fifth place in the Big Ten – but only one game out of first place. Of the seven teams currently at the top of the Big Ten only Wisconsin and Ohio State have home losses.
"The Big Ten is crazy right now," said Wilmont. "It's never been like this as long as I've been here. No matter who it is when they go on the road they're getting beat around. Everyone is just losing on the road.
"It's very important to win at home, especially this year. The way the Big Ten is right now you can't lose at home. If you lose at home you have to make up for it on the road and nobody has been able to do that consistently right now. We have to protect home."
Northwestern comes to Assembly Hall with surprisingly the best road record in the Big Ten, tied with Illinois and Ohio State at 2-2 away from home. The Wildcats are a dangerous team for Indiana after the Hoosiers lost three of the last five games to Northwestern – all three losses coming on the road at Evanston, however.
"Northwestern is a good team," said Wilmont. "They've gotten better every year that I've been here. They beat us last year in their place and we know they're going to come in here fighting and not just lay down. It's going to be like any other Big Ten game, we just need to keep pushing it and pushing it."
The Hoosiers need to gain confidence and in a hurry before they play the Wildcats at home. With two double-digit losses on the road and in a row the Hoosiers will be desperate for a win before taking on the No. 1 team in the nation on Saturday when UCONN comes to Bloomington.
"You have move past games like that," said Ratliff. "We have to look forward to Northwestern because they're a team that can come in here and sneak out with a win. We have to focus on the next game and put that loss behind us.
"You have to be ready for them. They always cut hard and they're scrappy. You have to be ready for their backdoor and post, they're so good they get teams sleeping. They're excellent back cutters and we have to be aware of that."
With the back-to-back losses behind them with little damage done to the Big Ten championship hopes the Hoosiers need to take care of business at home to stay in the hunt and make a move late in the conference season.
"We had a couple of road games we should have won but we let them slip away," said Wilmont. "It's nice to be home so we can go out, work hard and get this win against Northwestern."
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