FORT WAYNE – Indiana has grown up a lot in a short time.
The Hoosiers opened Big Ten play with losses to Illinois and No. 5 Michigan State and then had a week to think about what they needed to do going forward.
The time to refocus paid off as IU returned to conference play by overcoming a 15-point deficit on the road to top Penn State 79-76 last Saturday and followed that with a potential season-defining 75-72 victory over No. 3 Wisconsin on Tuesday at home.
IU (12-5, 2-2) will go for a third straight win today when it plays host to Northwestern (8-10, 1-4).
It’s just amazing what happens when some real confidence starts to come, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said after Tuesday’s victory.
It’s still a fight to get them to believe. That’s even because when we got down 10 (in the second half against Wisconsin), they still don’t quite understand. Sometimes they’re down like that when they’re not used to it, and 15 looks like 25 or 10 looks like 20. That’s not true. There are a lot of possessions in the game.
I have great confidence in them, and I hope they looked back and saw that I, as a coach, and coaching staff, we felt like it was just a matter of us stemming the tide.
But you’ve got to make moves in the game, see what happens, some work, some don’t. Bottom line is we persevered.
The Hoosiers’ ability to persevere stems from a newfound ability to not give away possessions.
IU entered its game against Wisconsin leading the Big Ten in turnovers per game, but the Hoosiers had a season-low nine turnovers in the upset win over the Badgers.
That performance came on the heels of IU committing 13 turnovers against Penn State. The Hoosiers opened conference play with 23 turnovers against Illinois and 15 against Michigan State.
It’s some of the things we work on every day, said senior Will Sheehey, who along with sophomore Yogi Ferrell is the only player on this year’s IU team who was a big contributor last season.
Just because we had nine (turnovers Tuesday) doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to working on it. Really, just guys continuing to move the ball, playing smart, and just really playing well here.
Crean said he got his team to stop committing turnovers by changing the consequences of losing the ball in practice. He wouldn’t share what the change was, but it worked against Wisconsin.
We’re still not going to be good enough to play through (turnovers), Crean said. The bottom line for us is we’ve got to continue to understand that. We’ve moved some people around. We’ve tweaked some sets. We’ve added some things. We’ve deleted some things, because this team is just not able to maybe have that freedom at times, certain guys yet. So we had to make some of those adjustments, and you just keep doing that. It’s getting better, and that’s why we’ve won two in a row.