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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Chance for win awaits against struggling IU

Bohannon: Senior guard Jason Bohannon scored a team-high 17 points in Wisconsin's win over Northwestern last Sunday.

Chance for win awaits against struggling IU

For years Indiana was considered the gold standard of Big Ten basketball. Under Bobby Knight, it won three titles and 11 league crowns and was a consistent participant in postseason tournaments.

Those days are a long way off.

Instead, the Hoosiers, who the Badgers face Thursday night, will be at a decidedly different level. Head coach Tom Crean's squad has been mired in an eight-game losing streak and has dropped its last six by an average of 20 points. The worst of those came by 28 at the hands of Wisconsin nearly two weeks ago.

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The Badgers, however, are still wary of the team that has not been competitive against them since current NBA players like Eric Gordon and D.J. White were on the court and Kelvin Sampson roamed the sidelines.

""Anytime you go to an opponent's home court it's going to be a little different game,"" senior guard Jason Bohannon said. ""They're a very good team at home, they play tough at home and they've had some very good games. When they get hot, they're as good as anyone. They've played a lot of close games; the ball hasn't fallen the right way for them.""

Bohannon may have been referring to a pair of close Hoosier defeats against Illinois and No. 3 Purdue coming by a total of five points.

The game could also give Wisconsin another opportunity to work against zone defenses, a tactic that has given the team a bit of trouble in recent games. Against Northwestern's 1-3-1 trapping zone the Badger attack slowed and was pinned closer to the half-court line, struggling to get inside. The contest before was even worse as a Minnesota zone stifled the Badgers, prompting a question to senior guard Trevon Hughes about whether the zone had handcuffed his squad.

""I don't like the word ‘handcuffed,' I don't think we are handcuffed. We just weren't aggressive,"" he said. ""We had our looks ... We just weren't making any shots. They weren't stopping us. We didn't turn the ball over much, we just weren't making shots and we weren't being aggressive attacking the basket as guards.""

When Indiana came to Madison it threw out a glut of different zones, but on that day the Badgers just shredded them.

Hughes said that once junior forward Jon Leuer, who missed nine games with a broken wrist and returned for that Gopher game, becomes fully reintegrated in the offense, the troubles against the zone will likely be solved.

Getting Leuer back when they did may be a bit of a luxury for the Badgers since the schedule softens a bit with no games against teams in the top third of the conference. It could give them the chance to work him back in and find a rhythm going into the postseason.

""We've got to look at it as getting things together. Tune up the car or whatever, make sure we'll be firing on all cylinders,"" Hughes said.

Even with that in mind, head coach Bo Ryan's players never admit to looking too far ahead.

""We know we have a lot of basketball yet to play, but right now we're not really focused on where we're going to be seeded in the Big Ten or NCAA tournament,"" Leuer said. ""It's just taking it one day at a time and trying to get better so when those moments come you'll be prepared for them. So right now we're just focusing on improving, and right now Indiana's in front of us so that's what we're focused on.""

The game tips off at 8 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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