Bloomington, Ind. – As Indiana prepares for a huge Thursday night match-up at Wisconsin, IU Coach Kelvin Sampson says his team has a chance to "right a lot of wrongs."
On paper, there's not a lot "wrong" with this Indiana team. After all, it stands alone a top the Big Ten standings at 6-0 and is ranked No. 11 nationally with a 17-2 record. It has one of the country's best big men in D.J. White, one of the nation's premiere perimeter players in Eric Gordon, and plenty of complementary players to make a deep March run a realistic expectation.
What's "wrong" with this team, in Sampson's mind, is its most recent result. The Hoosiers suffered a surprising 68-63 loss to Connecticut Saturday at Assembly Hall, IU's first setback in Assembly Hall in nearly two years and the team's first loss in two months.
It wasn't so much the loss that frustrated Sampson but how his team lost. Indiana was dominated on the boards 44-28, played selfishly at times, and didn't match the energy that the short-handed Huskies possessed. As a result, the Hoosiers were whipped in a fashion that stood in stark contrast to how the first three months of the season have unfolded.
Sampson knows that his team will have to play much better if it hopes to secure IU's first win in Madison since 1998. Wisconsin enters the game stinging from a hard-fought loss at Purdue Saturday, but Coach Bo Ryan's 13th-ranked team remains very much in the running for a league title at 6-1 in conference play and 16-3 overall.
Indiana has a chance to get the sort of marquee win that will clearly establish it as the team to beat in the Big Ten this year, or it will drop its second straight and slip back into a log-jam with Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue in the league standings.
"We have a great opportunity Thursday against a really good Wisconsin team," Sampson said. "This will be an important week of practice, but we have a chance to right a lot of wrongs and play better Thursday. We're going to need to."
While Brian Butch leads the Badgers in both scoring (13.2) and rebounding (7.8), he's far from the only player for the Hoosiers to be concerned about. Ryan's team is among the league's most balanced, as seven different players have led it in scoring this season. By contrast, Indiana has been led in scoring by either Gordon or D.J. White in all but two games this year.
Sampson pointed to forward Marcus Landry (10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) as a difficult match-up, and to point guard Trevon Hughes (13.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg) for his ability to step in and replace Kammron Taylor from last year's team. But what he likes as much as anything about the Badgers is the fact they rebound and defend well and keep their mistakes to a minimum.
"Their strength is they don't contribute to their demise," Sampson said. "They don't beat themselves. They're balanced inside and out. Butch provides problems because you to guard him on the block and behind the 3-point line. They're mentally tough kids that rarely make mistakes…they're sound in what they do."
Hoosiers Look to Right Wrongs Thursday Night
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