BLOOMINGTON -- The good Indiana news heading into Saturday’s Louisville game, which is apparently billed as the Countdown Classic, is that there’s a good chance sophomore forward Juwan Morgan will play.
When last we saw him, Morgan was heading to the Assembly Hall locker room, his left shoulder battered from a hard foul and fall. That was the same shoulder that was surgically repaired in the off-season. Given the obvious pain Morgan was in, speculation instantly ignited that it might be a season ender.
It wasn’t, and coach Tom Crean was optimistic during a Friday press conference.
“He’s getting better,” Crean said. “I would anticipate him playing. We can’t go definitive on that, but he’s worked hard to get better. He’s extremely sore.”
Morgan is not the only banged-up Hoosier, although everybody is expected to be available for this game.
“We’ve got numerous guys we have to get healthy,” Crean said.
Both No. 16 Indiana (10-3) and No. 6 Louisville (11-2) are coming off Wednesday night losses. The Hoosiers lost a home stunner to Nebraska. The Cardinals lost to top-15 Virginia, a rugged defensive team that has owned them lately.
Virginia has won four of the last five meetings.
No matter. Crean is well aware of what the three-point underdog Hoosiers will face.
“Louisville is an incredible challenge. I told our players, you could be around for a long time and might not see a much longer team that this. They are battle tested. It’s going to be a battle. It has to be a battle. Louisville will bring their best. We have to bring ours.”
Louisville has one of the nation’s best defenses, in part because it has length and athleticism to go with a shut-you-down mindset.
“They have size everywhere,” Crean said. “They’re a big team. They’re good in rebounding, transition defense and the turnover game.
“We’ll turn it over some. The other night we tried to do too much. We made the game much harder than it had to be. Against their length, you have to be true to the game plan and true to how you play.”
Hoosier preparation included plenty of five against seven sessions to mimic Louisville’s fierce pressure.
“There’s no way for us to mirror that length and size without doing that,” Crean said.
This is IU’s final non-conference game. The fact that it comes three days after the conference opener against Nebraska, and three days before a showdown with No. 14 Wisconsin, is no big deal, Crean said.
“(This game ) is a good thing. It works out well. It’s a great time of year for it. It’s a sell out. There is a lot of interest.”
The Nebraska loss still stings. Because of the short turnaround, IU didn’t have punishing practices, but the film sessions were, well, rigorous.
“The last few days have been total preparation for this game,” center Thomas Bryant said. “We were learning from (what happened against Nebraska) by looking at the film.
“Each game will be a war. We have to be ready to play. Its all mindset. We’re focused on Louisville. We know we got punched in the mouth. We have to come out with a different mindset.”
That means play with toughness and awareness.
“All we have to do is play simple ball,” Bryant said. “If the pass is there, make it. If the shot is there, take it.”