The Hoosiers (10-4), having absorbed an unwanted Assembly Hall surprise against Nebraska last week, then followed that with a loss to Louisville in Indianapolis that nearly knocked them out of the AP top-25 poll (they dropped from No. 16 to a tie with USC for 25th), face a major challenge to regain their home mastery.
Wisconsin is coming to Bloomington Tuesday night.
The No. 13 Badgers (12-2 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten) have been hard on the Hoosiers in recent years, winning 15 of the last 17 meetings. They were preseason conference favorites, and with a conference-leading eight straight victories, are playing like it.
“He has them playing really good ball,” IU coach Tom Crean said about Wisconsin coach Greg Gard.
But IU has bigger concerns than that. It has to regain the momentum generated from early wins over Kansas and North Carolina. Defense and ball security remain top priorities.
“It’s a matter of continuing to really lock in for the full 40 minutes,” guard Rob Johnson said. “It’s about doing the small details better. Doing a lot little things better. As we focus on that, lock into that, we’ll be better.”
As far as what was missing in the two-game slump, Johnson said, “It comes back to concentrating better and focusing on the details for 40 minutes.
“It’s not all that difficult (to fix) when you watch the film. It’s a matter of being locked in and concentrate to carry it out. We got away from our true identity. We made it way more complicated than it needed to be. We have to make the simple play, the simple pass.”
Crean has hit that theme hard the last few days.
“It’s the simple things we’re not grasping the way we need to grasp them. I love going to work with these guys. We’ll get better. We have to get some of this simplicity handled and not make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be.”
Wisconsin can vary the tempo. It has scored at least 90 points four times, including in wins over Oklahoma and Marquette. It averages 77.6 points.
In other words, don’t say the Badgers play slow.
"We really don't hold the ball,” forward Nigel Hayes said. “We just move it around and when you get out of position, then we score on you.
“We can play up and down. We've shown that earlier in non-conference. We played games in the 90's.
“It's not that we play slow or that we want to play slow. We just try and take good shots. Good shots lead you to high percentage shots and more chances that the ball goes in. Some other teams that we play against have a different motto, maybe more shots equals more opportunities, more points. We go better shots equals more points."
The Badgers, whose losses are to Creighton and North Carolina, can also throttle an offense into irrelevance, not with the ferocious pressure of a Louisville, but with a solid position approach. They lead the Big Ten in points allowed, at 58.8 points.
They do it with basically a seven-player rotation.
Guard Bronson Koenig is the top scorer at 14.1 points. Hayes is right behind at 14.0. He also averages 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Center Ethan Happ averages 12.7 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 66.7 percent.
“They have a lot of experience,” Johnson said. “They stick to the things they do really well. They stay true to their identity. It’s a matter of us executing.”
Still Gard said the Badgers are far from postseason ready.
"We've gotten better. I don't think we're where we need to be. I think we can be more consistent. Specifically from guys that are coming in off the bench. That's one area that I'd like to continue to see growth.
“There is always room for improvement. There should be. They understand that. We’ve got to continue to get better.”
UP NEXT: Wisconsin at Indiana
TIPOFF: 7 p.m., Tuesday
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