In the midst of the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak, Indiana crushed the last opponent to win in Bloomington its last time out.
The seventh-ranked Hoosiers take a break from Big Ten play on Saturday when they try to extend their home winning streak to 30 games and defeat the last non-conference team to emerge victorious at Assembly Hall as they host a short-handed Connecticut team without two suspended players.
Indiana (17-1) improved to 12-0 at home with a 65-43 victory over Iowa on Wednesday.
The Hawkeyes are the last team to beat the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall, where they pulled off a 70-67 victory on Feb. 11, 2006. Since that loss to Iowa, Indiana has won 29 straight at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers’ longest home winning streak since reeling off a school-record 56 straight home victories between 1991-95.
In Indiana’s previous home game before that loss to Iowa nearly two years ago, the Hoosiers hosted then-No. 1 Connecticut on Feb. 4, 2006. The top-ranked Huskies handed Indiana an 88-80 loss, and this will be the school’s first meeting in Bloomington since that game.
The Hoosiers avenged their home loss to the Huskies with a 77-73 win at UConn on Jan. 20, 2007. Indiana is 3-4 all-time versus the Huskies, winning each game UConn has been unranked, but losing all four times the Huskies have been in the top 25.
Indiana leads the Big Ten in scoring (79.4 points per game) and shooting (49.2 percent), but had one of its best defensive outings of the season Wednesday, holding the Hawkeyes to an opponent season low in points and just 15-of-44 shooting.
“This was a good win, and how we defended them was good, too,” Hoosiers coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We’re getting better in that area.
“Defense, decision-making, shot selection, there is not an area that we haven’t improved in. We play our roles better now than we did earlier, and I still think this team is going to continue to improve.”
Freshman star Eric Gordon had another stellar game on Wednesday, scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Gordon leads the Big Ten in scoring (22.1 ppg), while teammate D.J. White is third (17.1 ppg).
White had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Iowa, and is averaging 19.8 points on 71.0 percent shooting and 9.2 rebounds in his last six home games. The 6-foot-9 senior had 21 points in last season’s win at UConn (13-5), having little problems going against 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet.
The Huskies big man is averaging a conference-best 3.9 blocked shots, and his presence in the paint forces opponents to put up bad shots. UConn’s defensive field goal percentage of 37.6 percent is second-best in the Big East.
White isn’t too concerned with the Huskies defense, however.
“You always play aggressive and never back down,” he said. “It’s not in my nature to back down from anyone, no matter what the stats say. Obviously, they are a great shot blocking team but we aren’t going to try to do anything differently to try to avoid that.”
UConn is coming off a an 84-83 victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday, when it rallied from 12 points down with less than six minutes remaining.
“We needed a win like this,” point guard A.J. Price said. “We’re very young. We haven’t been in a hostile environment and pulled out a close one like that.”
But the Huskies will be without a pair of guards for this game. Coach Jim Calhoun suspended starting guard Jerome Dyson and backup guard Doug Wiggins indefinitely on Friday, and neither player made the trip to Indiana.
“It obviously isn’t something that is making me particularly happy,” Calhoun told The Hartford Courant after arriving at the hotel Friday. “This particular suspension is mine, no one else’s. I took the action based upon what I felt was in the best interest of our basketball team and the university.”
Dyson is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game, while Wiggins has averaged 6.6 points. Junior Craig Austrie, who averages 4.5 points and 1.1 assists, likely will be top backcourt reserve for this game.
Thabeet tied his career high with 22 points Wednesday on 7-of-9 shooting, although he failed to block a shot for the first time in 13 games. He had six points and no blocks in 23 minutes against Indiana last season.
Huskies forward Jeff Adrien, who is averaging team highs of 14.4 points and 9.1 rebounds, had 15 and 12, respectively, last season against the Hoosiers.
UConn snapped a seven-game losing streak against ranked teams with an 89-73 victory over then-No. 13 Marquette on Sunday. The Huskies have lost four straight road games against top 25 opponents since beating then-No. 11 West Virginia 81-75 on Feb. 18, 2006.