If statistics mean anything, this is Indiana’s best chance to win a road game until next season.
Iowa is last in the Big Ten with a 0-6 record. It is only 5-5 at home, just 7-11 overall. It has a new coach (Fran McCaffery) and a new system that is year or two away from clicking.
The Hoosiers (10-9, 1-5), meanwhile, pushed Wisconsin hard at the Kohl Center on Thursday night. That must might be the Big Ten’s toughest place to play. If they can do that, they can win this game.
Will they? Given the fact they are just 1-23 on the road under coach Tom Crean, and have lost seven of their last eight games, the odds are not favorable.
But today’s game isn’t about odds. It’s about performance and execution and doing what needs to be done, especially at crunch time, which has become this team’s biggest Achilles heel.
So what’s it going to take? Here are some of Crean’s thoughts as supplied by the sports information staff:
“(This) is an opportunity for our team to get better. I think each week during the Big Ten season we have taken steps, but we certainly are by no means a finished product. I’m sure Iowa will be ready to play in front of their home crowd.”
Iowa is led by guards Matt Gatens (13.2 points), Bryce Cartwright (10.9) and Eric May (10.3). The Hoosiers can’t let them get into a rhythm and play in their comfort zone. They need to do exactly what they did to Wisconsin -- jump to an early lead. Then they need to do what they failed to do against Wisconsin, throttle with second-half defense.
“I think our mindset is improving,” Crean said, “and we have a better understanding that the effort we put forth on defense will translate into better opportunities on offense. I like our aggressive approach. We can’t settle for quick shots unless they are high percentage. We know Iowa wants to get out in transition. We can’t allow them easy opportunities off of our missed shots.”
Iowa beat the Hoosiers last year. Crean hasn’t forgotten.
“Last year Iowa opposed their will on us physically as well as any team we played. We cannot allow that to happen. Our intensity and concentration has to be at its best.”
A reader commented that quarterback Dusty Kiel is more than a drop-back quarterback and had the high school stats to prove it. We checked and he’s right.
As a senior at Columbus East in Indiana, he threw for 3,172 yards and 35 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,126 yards and 14 touchdowns, and averaged 7.3 yards a carry.
Edward Baker-Wright, by comparison, threw for 1,757 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior at Jeffersonville in Indiana. He rushed for 850 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Look for some intense spring competition between the two.