Poor road play is a key reason Indiana has slipped out of contention for a Big Ten title. A tough home loss to Minnesota also played a role.
After stepping out of conference to win their latest contest, the No. 23 Hoosiers hope to add to the Golden Gophers’ struggles at home and avoid a fourth consecutive loss at Williams Arena on Sunday.
Ranked seventh at the time, Indiana was 15-1 heading into a Jan. 12 matchup with a Minnesota team which had lost four straight. The Gophers pulled off a 77-74 upset for their sixth win in the last eight meetings.
That’s the lone loss in 17 home games for the Hoosiers (21-7, 8-7), and it triggered a three-game losing streak - part of their current 6-6 stretch.
Five of those defeats have come in six games on the road, where the Hoosiers are 2-6 in Big Ten play while averaging 66.9 points and shooting 44.5 percent. Indiana is scoring 78.9 per game on 50.3 percent shooting while going 6-1 at home in league games.
“We have to be that much more hard-nosed and hard-lined,” coach Tom Crean told the Hoosiers’ official website. “That is what our team is learning. There are a lot of lessons to be learned as we go through the rest of this season.”
Indiana bounced back from a season-worst 37.7-percent shooting effort during a 78-66 loss at Iowa last Sunday by improving to 13-0 in non-conference play with a 75-56 win over North Carolina Central on Thursday.
“It builds our confidence a little bit because it’s an undefeated (non-conference) season,” said guard Victor Oladipo, who scored 16 points. “But we’ve got to turn right back around and play another, and a road game at that.”
Though the Hoosiers have lost three in a row and 10 of 12 at “The Barn,” Minnesota (17-11, 5-10) has dropped four straight overall, including three at home to ranked teams - Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State.
The Gophers led for nearly 18 minutes of the second half Thursday against the Spartans, but they committed 12 of their 15 turnovers after halftime en route to a 66-61 loss.
“We’ve got to have guys at the end of the game we can go to and get stuff done, and we just can’t seem to find that person,” coach Tubby Smith said.
The Gophers, though, were able to execute late at Indiana last month. Minnesota made 6 of 13 3-pointers in the first half, then pulled down 12 of its 16 offensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes to help maintain its advantage.
Minnesota sophomore Austin Hollins had a season-high 18 points in that contest and 17 versus Michigan State, nearly double his season average.
Indiana star freshman Cody Zeller scored 23 against the Gophers.
“I was really impressed with Cody Zeller,” Smith said. “He’s a very tough matchup for us. We had all kinds of trouble guarding him.”
Though Zeller has averaged 20.6 points at home in Big Ten play, he’s been held to 12.1 on the road in the league. Zeller did have 15 with 13 rebounds at Iowa last weekend.
Oladipo has averaged 16.8 points while Indiana has won four of its last five overall.
He scored 13 in the Hoosiers’ last visit to Williams Arena, a 67-63 loss Jan. 4, 2011, but went 3 for 11 from the field.
Teammate Christian Watford shot 2 for 13 in that game and is 4 for 32 in his last three matchups with Minnesota. He’s averaging 11.6 points this season but has missed all 13 of his field-goal attempts in the last two games.