Indiana didn’t miss playing without two key members of its backcourt the last time out. The Hoosiers will have at last one back for their next contest.
After missing his first game because of a bruised lower back, freshman phenom Eric Gordon is expected to return Saturday when the 13th-ranked Hoosiers host Western Carolina.
Indiana (8-1) did fine without Gordon - one of the nation’s top scorers at 24.3 points per game - and point guard Armon Bassett in beating Kentucky 70-51 last Saturday. It was the Hoosiers’ fourth consecutive victory since falling 80-65 to Xavier on Nov. 24.
It appeared Gordon was healthy enough to play last week after he fell hard on his back in the Hoosiers’ 84-72 win over Tennessee State on Dec. 3. That wasn’t the case, so Gordon, who had eight points in just 12 minutes in that contest, was held out.
Gordon, however, appears to recovered and will take the floor Saturday for the Hoosiers, who look to extend the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak to 24 games.
“Eric has been good in practice this week. I fully expect him to play,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “It is just a matter of time. There were no broken bones. It was more discomfort and a really, really deep contusion.”
Bassett, meanwhile, will miss his second straight game after being suspended for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. The sophomore is averaging 11.3 points and 3.5 assists per game.
“He has got some work to do,” Sampson said. “He won’t play Saturday and we will just have to wait to see about the following Saturday.”
Senior guard A.J. Ratliff, who was academically ineligible for the first semester, could make his debut Saturday and provide some backcourt depth for Indiana.
Freshman Jordan Crawford will likely make his second straight start in Bassett’s place. Crawford returned from a three-game suspension to score a career-high 20 points against Kentucky and his older brother, Joe.
Crawford took some pressure off senior D.J. White, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds despite dealing with first-half foul trouble.
White, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.9 points and top rebounder at 9.1 per game, is averaging 17.8 points and 12.4 rebounds in his last five contests.
Despite White’s recent play and having Gordon back, Sampson is still uncertain how his team will perform Saturday in the school’s first meeting with Western Carolina (3-5). Only Memphis and BYU - which have each won 36 in a row at home - and Notre Dame (25) have longer current home winning streaks than Indiana.
“Every game is a challenge,” Sampson said. “But with our team and with the injuries and people missing games and getting all our kids into practice, it has been hit-or-miss this week. I have no idea how we will play Saturday.”
Western Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak with an 84-64 home win over North Carolina Central on Dec. 5 in its most recent contest.
Freshman guard Michael Porrini scored a career-high 17 points against North Carolina Central, topping his team-leading 13.1 season average.
The Catamounts, who were picked to finish third in the Southern Conference’s North Division, have lost their last five true road games dating to last season. They beat Bowling Green 63-60 on Nov. 9 as part of the Peggy Cronin Classic in Cincinnati for their lone win away from home this season.