FORT WAYNE – Indiana will take a second shot at winning its first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 1993 when the No. 2 Hoosiers (25-5, 13-4) travel to play No. 7 Michigan (25-5, 12-5) at 4 p.m. today.
IU missed out on capturing the outright title on its home floor when the Hoosiers fell to No. 14 Ohio State (22-7, 12-5) on Tuesday.
If Indiana doesn’t win today, it could end up sharing the regular-season crown with the Wolverines as well as possibly No. 10 Michigan State (23-7, 12-5), which plays host to Northwestern (13-17, 4-13) at 6 p.m. today, and Ohio State, which plays host to Illinois (21-10, 8-9) at 12:30 p.m. today.
You want to win it outright instead of sharing it, so that’s why we are focused on this game, Indiana guard Jordan Hulls told reporters Saturday. We’ve been pretty good this year on the road, but we have to bring our defense, play unselfish and move the basketball.
The Hoosiers have locked up the top seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament, which begins Thursday at the United Center in Chicago, thanks to Michigan State’s 58-43 home win over No. 22 Wisconsin (20-10, 11-6) on Thursday.
But Indiana knows it made the road to the outright season title more difficult by having to win it at Michigan.
The Wolverines are 17-0 at the Crisler Center this season, and they are 32-1 at home in the last two seasons. The Hoosiers are 6-2 in road games this season.
Ever since they moved the students down (closer to the court) like the do at Michigan State, it has been a pretty tough environment since I have been back in the Big Ten, IU coach Tom Crean said of playing at Michigan. I think we will play with a lot of energy there. It will be a great environment and will be hostile, and our guys have done pretty well with that. Everybody is ready to go. I know I am personally, and I think they are too.
Michigan will try to avenge an 81-73 loss it suffered Feb. 2 at Indiana. The Hoosiers’ starters all scored in double figures in the victory with Cody Zeller getting 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Victory Oladipo scored 15 against Michigan; Christian Watford had 14 points and 10 rebounds; Kevin Yogi Ferrell had 14 points and Hulls added 11.
Zeller was incredible, just dunking rebounds like I’ve never seen, Michigan coach John Beilein told reporters Friday.
Our just general defense has to get better. It wasn’t a matter of blocking out. It was a matter of two guys having to guard the ball, so there was nobody on Zeller.
Today’s game will feature three of the 15 finalists named Saturday for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s top player.
Indiana’s Oladipo and Zeller making the list as well as Michigan guard Trey Burke.
Ohio State forward and former Bishop Luers standout Deshaun Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring with 19.8 points per game, also made the final ballot for the Wooden Award.
Zeller is third in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 16.5 points, and Oladipo is 10th in the league, averaging 13.7 points.
Burke is the conference’s second-leading scorer, averaging 19.1 points, and he had 25 points in the loss to the Hoosiers.
He’s taking over games, Oladipo said of Burke.
I believe versus Purdue, a couple days ago, they were down and he basically took over the game at the end of the game.
He’s just doing a great job of leading the team.
Everyone knows that he’s a great player, and we’re going to need to stop him in order to win.