Indiana is coming off its biggest win of the season, an 80-64 drubbing of No. 17 Florida State that improved the Hoosiers' record to 8-0. There was little time to dwell on that victory, however, not with bigger challenges on the horizon.
“Hopefully we were able to put Florida State to bed very quickly,” coach Archie Miller said of Tuesday's win. “Move on and stay grounded, and (have) humility about us that we are not anywhere near where we have to get to.”
The next test for Indiana is to take its still-inexperienced team on the road and try to remain undefeated in one of the most hostile environments in the Big Ten. Indiana will open its conference schedule today against Wisconsin (4-4) at the Kohl Center, where the Hoosiers have not won since the week after the stadium opened in 1998.
As the Hoosiers depart the comfortable surroundings of Assembly Hall for their first road game, the team's veterans are focused on making sure the younger players don't get caught up in the unfriendly atmosphere.
“(We're) just reminding them to stick together and make sure we all are on the same page,” junior guard Al Durham said. “Just not letting ourselves get out of control or getting rowdy because you're on the road at Wisconsin and the crowd is getting rowdy. We are just going to stay together and stick to our Day One rules.”
The Badgers have lost three straight games and are not quite the well-oiled defensive-minded machine of past Wisconsin teams. They are still dangerous at home, though, boasting a 4-0 mark in the Kohl Center, including a 16-point victory over Marquette. Miller expects a Badgers team hungry to reset their season with a win in the Big Ten opener.
The Hoosiers are hoping they can bring their rebounding prowess on the road with them. This season, Indiana is fifth in the country in average rebounding margin at plus-11.8, and the Hoosiers outrebounded Florida State, the tallest team in the country according to KenPom.com, 35-25 in Tuesday's win.
Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis leads the way with 9.4 rebounds per game, but the Hoosiers' dominance on the glass has been a team effort.
“It's been a point of emphasis every day in practice,” said center Joey Brunk, who is averaging 4.9 rebounds. “When you work on it, you talk about it every day and you have a lot of great kind of natural rebounders like Justin (Smith) and Trayce, guys that are competitive like Race (Thompson). It just becomes a part of our team.
“Obviously at this point, we want to make sure that travels wherever we are in the country.”
Wisconsin has struggled offensively, averaging 66.5 points, 285th in the country, and shooting 29.7% from beyond the arc. The Badgers have four players averaging in double figures, led by 6-foot-11 junior Nate Reuvers at 14.9 points, but none of the top seven scorers shoots better than 32.3% on 3-pointers.
The Hoosiers will likely be without point guard Robert Phinisee once again, as he deals with an ankle injury suffered in practice Monday. Miller said the sophomore, who has played only four games this year, is doubtful. The Hoosiers are targeting the middle or end of December for his return.
Indiana at Wisconsin
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin
When: 4:30 p.m. today
Records: Indiana (8-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Wisconsin (4-4, 0-0)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM