FORT WAYNE – Indiana enters the Big Ten tournament with wins in seven of its last eight games.
So are the Hoosiers playing their best basketball of the season?
It would appear that way, IU coach Tom Crean said Sunday. I really dont think like that. I just dont. Its so much about the daily part. Theyre feeling very confident, but that confidence has to continue to be hunger.
There are a lot of things that are getting better. Their work habits have been tremendous, but theyre seeing the payoff of how hard they work, how much time they spend and how much they are locked in to win each and every game.
The fifth-seeded Hoosiers play 12th-seeded Penn State in the first round of the conference tournament today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. IU-Penn State is the second game of the day, starting about 2 p.m.
This is a great time to get hot, when the postseason starts, Indiana senior guard Verdell Jones III said. Hopefully we can ride this all the way to wherever it leads.
Crean added: The ball is really moving, and our collective team defense is better. We rise to the occasion right now. Thats what we need to continue to do.
IU (24-7) won its fourth straight game Sunday, topping Purdue 85-74.
(Momentum is) good just as long as they keep understanding why we have it, Crean said. You lose a little bit of edge, youve given momentum to the other team. Our guys have to keep understanding why theyre being successful and that edge needs to keep being created. Thats what practice is for. Thats what film sessions are for. Thats what workouts are for.
Weve got to stay on a climb.
Indiana swept the regular-season series with Penn State. On Jan. 8, the Hoosiers won 88-82 in State College, Pa. Jordan Hulls scored 28 points, Matt Roth had 22, and Indiana made 16 three-pointers.
On Jan. 22, Indiana beat Penn State 73-54 at Assembly Hall, led by Cody Zellers 18 points.
We know weve got a tough task in the sense of getting ready to match (Penn States) kind of emotion, energy and toughness, Crean said. But thats what our guys have been thriving on.
The Nittany Lions (12-19) have lost nine of their last 11 games.
Im proud of my team, proud of the way they fight and compete, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. We just cant get everybody on the same page.
Tim Frazier leads the team in scoring (18.6), rebounding (4.8) and assists (6.3). Frazier was named first-team all-Big Ten by the media and second team by the coaches.
The Nittany Lions are ready to take on the underdog role.
Youre playing with house money. No one expects you to win. Everyone expects you to lose, Chambers said. Theres no pressure on us. Lets go out, have fun, lets compete, lets play hard and loose.