Connecticut has saved its best games for ranked opponents in its run to the No. 1 spot this season.
The Huskies try to put forth another such effort Saturday when they visit No. 22 Indiana.
Jim Calhoun’s team is 6-0 against Top 25 opponents this season and has won eight in a row since its 94-79 defeat Jan. 3 at Marquette. Connecticut (19-1) moved into a second-place tie in the Big East after Tuesday’s 80-76 win over No. 9 Pittsburgh in a bruising, hard-fought game.
“We’re very fortunate to win, but I do think we outplayed them,” said Calhoun, whose Huskies are 32-5 as the No. 1 team in the AP poll.
“They could have won the game, no question. But I thought we did enough things to win the basketball game.”
Rudy Gay scored 22 points for the Huskies, putting forth the kind of performance Calhoun has hoped for all season to make Connecticut a national title contender. It was just the fifth 20-point game of the season for the sophomore forward, who is averaging 15.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.
“Rudy Gay made some tough, tough plays,” Calhoun said. “He’s going to need to do that down the stretch for us. And tonight he certainly did.
Connecticut has won four consecutive road games against ranked opponents since a 77-65 loss Jan. 10, 2005, at then-No. 25 Oklahoma.
Indiana (13-5) is playing the top-ranked team at home for the second time this season. On Nov. 30, the Hoosiers lost 75-67 to Duke and are 2-2 this season against ranked opponents.
The Hoosiers picked up a needed win Wednesday, defeating Northwestern 72-63. Coach Mike Davis altered his lineup, and Roderick Wilmont responded with a career-high 23 points in his first Big Ten start while 5-foot-8 guard Errek Suhr had 10 points and five assists while causing problems for the Wildcats with his speed.
“It gives us confidence after losing two games and then coming back with a win,” said Hoosiers forward Robert Vaden, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. “We know that Connecticut is going to bring it, and we just have to bring it to them. The atmosphere should be the same as the Duke game with the No. 1 team in the country coming in. They have a lot of talent.”
Forward Marco Killingsworth likely will have to come through with one of his best games of the season to offset Connecticut’s talented front line of Gay, Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong. Killingsworth has proven himself capable of a big game against an elite opponent after a 34-point, 10-rebound performance in Indiana’s loss to Duke.
“You watch these guys play and definitely see why they are one of the best teams in the country,” Hoosiers coach Mike Davis said of Connecticut. “They have six, seven, eight guys you really need to focus on. If one guy isn’t playing well, they can go to someone else for a big play.
“They play hard, hit the offensive glass, block a lot of shots and play well in transition.”
Killingsworth is averaging 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. He scored just nine points Wednesday, only the second time he has been held in single digits this season.
Gay had 11 points and 10 rebounds last season in Connecticut’s 74-69 win at the Hartford Civic Center. The Huskies lead the all-time series 3-2, and Indiana’s last win was a 68-61 triumph Nov. 15, 1996, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.