Bloomington – As Indiana prepares for its first true road game of the season Wednesday at Ohio State, Coach Tom Crean has a formula for success. It involves rebounding the basketball, limiting turnovers, getting to the foul line, and being good on both ends of the court in transition.
That's easy enough, right?
Crean might know what Indiana (7-6/1-0) needs to do Wednesday night at Value City Arena, but he's also aware that knowing it and executing it are two different things. That's especially true with a young basketball team that has a handful of freshmen that have yet to experience the challenges that come with playing on the road in the Big Ten.
"I think it's something they just have to experience," Crean said Monday about playing on the road. "They just have to go through it – there's no way around it."
They'll be doing it in Columbus, Ohio, against an Ohio State team that is in desperate need of a win. The Buckeyes (10-4/0-2) had their own struggles away from home last week, getting drubbed by Wisconsin 65-43 and then losing 74-65 Sunday to a Michigan team that Indiana handled 71-65 earlier in the week.
Now, Coach Thad Matta's team returns home where it's a perfect 8-0 this season and 23-3 over the past season and a half.
"We feel we're preparing for one of the toughest atmospheres around the Big Ten, and we feel like we're certainly preparing for one of the better teams," said Crean, whose team lost by 24 at Ohio State a season ago.
One of the reasons for Ohio State's recent struggles has been the absence of 2009 Big Ten MVP Evan Turner, whose been sidelined since Dec. 5. During a game against Eastern Michigan, Turner landed awkwardly on a dunk attempt and suffered a fracture on his second and third lumbar vertebrae. The original diagnosis had him sidelined for eight weeks, but he's publicly said he will beat that estimate and plans to return for Saturday's game at Minnesota.
There hasn't been any word about Turner trying to get back three days early in the wake of the Buckeyes' 0-2 start, but Crean said Indiana's preparation will be for Turner to be on the court and not on the bench. Turner was averaging 20.6 points and 12.9 rebounds per game before his injury.
"We'll prepare like Evan Turner is going to be out there so that we're not caught by surprise if he is," Crean said.
Whether Turner is ready to go or not, Crean knows the Hoosiers will have to be every bit as good as they were last Thursday in the win over Michigan if they're going to improve to 2-0 with an upset of the Buckeyes. In that game, the Hoosiers turned the ball over only nine times and limited the Wolverines to seven points off turnover. Eight of Indiana's turnovers came in the game's first eight minutes, and IU only turned it over one more time the rest of the way.
Indiana will probably need to be every bit as sound with its ball handling and decision making against an Ohio State team that still presents plenty of problems if Turner isn't cleared to return. Jon Diebler (14.1 ppg, Big Ten-best 48 3-pointers), David Lighty (14.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 spg) and William Buford (12.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) still give Matta one of the league's best backcourts, and center Dallas Lauderdale leads the conference by a wide margin with 3.0 blocks/game.
"We know we'll have our hands full," Crean said. "We're excited about the challenge."
Hoosiers Prepare For First True Road Test
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