When: Saturday, March 6, 2004, 11:17 a.m. CST
Site: Assembly Hall (17,456) in Bloomington, Ind.
Broadcasts: ESPN Plus Regional (WISC TV in Madison), Wisconsin Radio Network
Series Notes: Indiana leads all-time series 91-52, including a 50-21 edge in Bloomington
As the regular season comes to an end, the one thing No. 14 Wisconsin can control in the hope for a third-straight conference title is the task at hand.
The Badgers face their second tough road opponent this week when they travel to Bloomington Saturday to take on Indiana. For a share of the Big Ten championship, the Badgers must not only defeat the Hoosiers but also hope for Illinois to lose on Sunday at Ohio State.
As compound as the equation is for the Badgers, in their eyes, it's simple.
"We can't worry about everything else that's going on," junior forward Zach Morley said "We just have to take care of our own business, and put our (team) in an opportunity where we have a chance."
Wisconsin has a chance to sweep the Hoosiers this season, but will undoubtedly face a much different and tougher team Saturday than the one they beat, 79-45, Jan. 6 at the Kohl Center in both teams' conference opener.
Mike Davis' Indiana squad has been as inconsistent as any in the conference. After the opening loss in conference play, the Hoosiers reeled off five straight victories and climbed to the top of the Big Ten. However, as quickly as they rose, they immediately fell back to the bottom-feeders of the conference, losing seven of their next nine games, including four at home.
Despite their fall in the standings, the Badgers realize the potential the Hoosiers possess and understand the key to garnering the upper hand.
"They're a different team now," UW junior guard Devin Harris said. "They didn't play with the big guy, and he's back [George Leach]. So, he kind of gives them a presence inside, but that's where we'll have to attack. We had success against Michigan State doing that and we'll have to keep at it."
The Hoosiers are led offensively by sophomore guard Bracey Wright and his team-high 16.8 points per contest in conference play, third-best in the Big Ten. However, arguably the biggest impact player on the team is senior center George Leach. As Harris alluded to, Leach brings the interior presence the Hoosiers desperately need down low as he leads the conference in total blocks (35) and blocks per game (2.50).
While some of the pieces are there for the Indiana team to have success, its struggles have come as an entire group. As a team, the Hoosiers are second to last in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting barely over 40 percent. While they are second in the Big Ten in rebounds per game (34.7), they are, however, the worst in the Big Ten in giving up rebounds, allowing opponents to grab nearly 36 a game.
Clearly a team that makes you scratch your head, the Hoosiers have shown glimpses of some of the best basketball in the conference, yet more often have the propensity to shut down at the most inopportune times. Indiana has wins over Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan (twice), but has done its best to cancel those out with losses to both Minnesota and Ohio State at home.
"We're preparing for their best," UW junior guard Clayton Hanson said. "Just because we know that's what they're going to bring ...they're a dangerous team and going into that environment should be a tough game for us."
In addition to Wisconsin's title hopes, this game has ramifications for Indiana. With a win plus losses from several other teams, Indiana, could finish as high as fourth in the conference. The Hoosiers only hope of making the NCAA tournament is to win the Big Ten Tournament next week, so a hirer seed in that event is vital.
Key Matchup: Moye versus Morley
On paper, this may not look like the most glamorous matchup. However, senior forward A.J. Moye is Indiana's leader in rebounding with 6.5 per game during conference play and his energy and effort often surpasses his statistical output. The same can be said about Morley, who like many reserves for UW supplies a wealth of intangibles.
By The numbers
.322 – Indiana's 3-point field goal percentage defense, second best in the conference.
7.27 – Indiana's 3-point field goals made per game, which leads the Big Ten.
10.6 – UW's conference-leading margin of victory during Big Ten play.
0 – Indiana and Wisconsin have yet to win this season when trailing at the half.
|Patrick Ewing, Jr.||6-8||Fr.||F||3.0||3.8||0.2|