Indiana, No. 18 Illinois prepare for tough Big Ten clash
With just 11 weeks to complete their 20-game league schedules, the Big Ten teams have little time to celebrate wins and, more importantly, solve problems that arise when they lose.
This helps explain why the Indiana Hoosiers (5-3, 0-1) were back on the practice area barely 10 hours after a home loss to Northwestern when the Big Ten kicked off at 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
Head coach Archie Miller had a laundry list of issues that needed to be addressed before the Hoosiers got on the bus on Christmas Day to leave at 4pm on Saturday. ET clash at No. 18 Illinois (6-3, 2-1).
Perhaps Indiana's biggest problem? It ranks last among the Big Ten teams with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.12. More specifically, the Hoosiers have dumped the ball 16 times in just 67 possessions during their 74-67 loss to Northwestern on Wednesday.
"We're too sloppy right now," Miller said. "We have too many games that won't work for us in this league. We can't flip the ball 16 times at home. We're not that good. There are five or six games out there." must be cut back. "
Northwestern converted those 16 turnovers into 20 points - eight of them in the last nine minutes when the Wildcats beat the Hoosiers 24-13 to claim the win.
"You know what? Maybe we need to slow it down. We don't play that many guys anyway," said Miller, who was essentially sticking to a seven-man rotation against Northwestern.
"If we keep flipping the ball in transition with numbers, we may have to slow it down a bit and make sure we don't flip it because I know sales on the other end are really hard to defend."
Revenues are particularly devastating against a team like Illinois, which ranks fifth nationwide in offensive efficiency with 116.1 points per 100 possessions.
Given that the Hoosiers couldn't stop northwest shooter Chase Audige - the hungry William & Mary transfer scored all 17 points in the last nine minutes on Wednesday - how will they deal with All-American Ayo Dosunmu in the preseason when he has the ball in his hands? The junior averages 23.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
"Ayo is the best guard in the country," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood.
During Illinois' 98-81 victory at Penn State on Wednesday, Dosunmu lost 15 of his 30 points in the second half when Illinois took control.
And the Illinois do not make it easy for the defense to devote additional resources to slowing Dosunmu. Point guard Andre Curbelo pulls to the edge and scores even more open shots than Dosunmu - he has 22 assists against five turnovers in just 65 Big Ten minutes - and no team can afford the 7-foot Kofi Cockburn in Illinois to leave alone. Guards go to the tire.
Cockburn left the field 11 of 13 and scored 23 points on Wednesday to maintain his ridiculous final stretch. In his last four games, the Jamaican-born averaged 23.0 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 73.1 percent off the field.
"It won't always be that easy," said Underwood. "It will be difficult on Saturday."
- Field level media
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