Wisconsin is still in the mix for a Big Ten title, but might not be for long if it can’t turn around its road struggles.
The 18th-ranked Badgers look to avoid a third straight conference road loss Sunday when they visit Northwestern, which hopes to have leading scorer John Shurna back after a one-game absence.
Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2) has won three of four and two straight, including a 69-60 victory over Indiana on Thursday. Both of its last two wins were at home.
The Badgers are 1-3 in true road games, losing their last two. They play their next two games away from Madison, visiting Penn State next Saturday.
The Badgers struggled early Thursday against the Hoosiers, allowing them to shoot 60.9 percent in the first half, but they rallied from a four-point halftime deficit and outscored Indiana 22-12 over the final 12 minutes.
Junior guard Jordan Taylor led all scorers with a career-high 28 points. Second on the Badgers with 17.6 points per game, Taylor has averaged 22 in the last six games and has scored 20 or more in four straight.
“Jordan, as people are finding out, is a pretty good player and he’s been very instrumental in putting us in the position that we’re in right now,” coach Bo Ryan said. “We’re definitely going to need him to continue to play like that.”
Taylor and the Badgers are looking to win their third straight against Northwestern. Wisconsin has won seven of eight in the series overall and three of four at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern (13-5, 3-4) is 9-1 at home, though, with the lone loss coming Jan. 3 against then-No. 18 Michigan State, 65-62.
The Wildcats have four of five overall, including a 98-55 victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Thursday in which they shot 58.1 percent en route to their highest scoring output since a 100-89 home win over the Badgers on March 6, 1993.
Shurna, who is averaging 19.5 points, sat out for precautionary reasons after being bothered by a high ankle sprain suffered last month. Northwestern hopes with the extra rest he’ll be ready Sunday.
“It can’t hurt (for Shurna to sit) so I’m going to try and con him into thinking that it is really important,” coach Bill Carmody said. “It should work out pretty nicely for us.”
Shurna ranks second in Division I in 3-point shooting at 54.8 percent, but the Wildcats went 11 of 23 from beyond the arc Thursday despite his absence.
Shurna totaled 41 points in two meetings with Wisconsin last season, but Northwestern lost both.