FORT WAYNE – Indiana has been in this position before and responded well.
The Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3 Big Ten) play host to Iowa (18-10, 7-8) tonight coming off a loss as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Indiana, which fell 77-73 at Minnesota on Tuesday, lost when it was No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 to Butler, 88-86 in overtime Dec. 15, and to Illinois, 74-72 on Feb. 7. The Hoosiers responded to those losses by putting together six- and four-game winning streaks.
Indiana’s other loss this season was 64-59 to Wisconsin on Jan. 15 when it was ranked No. 2. The Hoosiers responded with a five-game winning streak.
The thing about a loss is, with this team now, we take it very personal, forward Derek Elston told reporters Friday. That is the thing this year, after a loss, the next practice is the most physical, but that’s just what we live for. We want to get right back in here and start working to get better. You hate to lose, but you love to see that fight and anger come out in the next practice.
The Hoosiers enter tonight’s game holding a one-game lead for first place in the Big Ten and the top seed in the conference tournament, which runs March 14-17 in Chicago.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said to keep that edge in the Big Ten race, his team needs to rebound better than it did against Minnesota. The Gophers outrebounded the Hoosiers 44-30 and had 23 offensive rebounds.
It’s a little bit of technique, it’s a little more awareness, and then it’s a lot more of being the first hitter, Crean said. You’ve got to have first contact. It’s a physical game, it really is. We’ve had some great rebounding games.
It wasn’t like we forgot. We just didn’t make first contact, and we didn’t get the 50-50s.
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell is sidelined with a foot injury, and Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery told reporters he didn’t expect the 6-foot-1 freshman to return until the Big Ten tournament.
Iowa moved Roy Devyn Marble, who leads the team in scoring with 14 points per game, to point guard in its 58-48 victory over Purdue on Wednesday night and used Josh Oglesby in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Gesell started the first 27 games this season and was third on the team in scoring with nine points per game and was second in assists with 2.9 per game.
My understanding is they’re going to do another MRI (on Gessell), and we’ll see where it is, McCaffery said.
Even if the Hawkeyes were at full strength, McCaffery said he knows his team is in for a challenge against an Indiana team that defeated Iowa 69-65 Dec. 31.
They have shooters, drivers, tremendous point guard play, depth at point guard, defenders, size, length, low post scorers and developed depth, McCaffery said. In every possible way, they’re going to challenge our basketball team.