After suffering a brutal 84-64 defeat at Wisconsin to open Big Ten play, Indiana faces another challenging test just 72 hours later.
On Tuesday night, Indiana will face Connecticut as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The neutral site matchup will be the nightcap, taking place at 9 p.m. and following the first game of Louisville and Texas Tech. The last time Indiana played in the Jimmy V Classic was 2014 where the Hoosiers lost 94-74 to Louisville.
This will be Indiana’s first neutral site game of the season and second road trip; the Wisconsin loss was the first road game of the year.
Indiana will be seeking validation on a national stage and to prove that the beatdown by the Badgers was merely a fluke.
The Hoosiers did not look the least bit comfortable away from Assembly Hall in their last outing, and will have to adjust to playing under the bright lights of the Big Apple in a quick turnaround from the weekend to play a talented and rested Connecticut team.
A look in the mirror
The Huskies will have had nearly a week of rest prior to Tuesday night’s game and have had a solid season thus far. Connecticut holds a 6-2 record and ranks at No. 53 in the KenPom rankings.
Their best wins include a home victory against a talented and once-ranked Florida team as well as a 25-point drubbing of Miami in the Charleston Classic.
The two Connecticut losses are split with one being very respectable, and the other embarrassing. The first loss was the bad one, with the Huskies losing by nine at home to Saint Joseph’s who is the No. 248 team in the KenPom rankings and has a 2-8 record. The other game they dropped was a one-point, double overtime loss to Xavier in the Charleston Classic.
The Huskies’ roster mirrors Indiana in a way with them having a very balanced roster and play a deep, 10-man rotation. The big difference is that Connecticut is more guard-heavy, but the scoring allotment is pretty evenly spread out with them having five scorers averaging double-digit points.
Guards lead the way
Connecticut leans on veteran leadership from two talented guards in senior Christian Vital and redshirt junior Alterique Gilbert.
Vital, the team’s leading scorer, is also a defensive stalwart. The senior guard is chipping in 14.8 points per game and leads the team with 23 steals. Vital is also an excellent rebounder, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game while only being 6-foot-2.
Gilbert is the guard that has the keys to the offense, leading the team with 37 assists and also averages 10.1 points per game. Gilbert was a 2016 McDonald’s All-American but has dealt with a number of injuries throughout his collegiate career, including shoulder injuries that cut his freshman and redshirt freshman seasons well short.
What it comes down to
As a team, the Huskies like to score plenty, they average 76.9 points per game, but do so at a rather inefficient rate. Their overall field goal percentage is only at 41.5 percent compared to Indiana’s nearly 51 percent field goal percentage.
Forcing Connecticut to take poor shots and keeping their field goal percentage low should be a priority for Indiana. The Huskies are a very respectable defensive club though and only let opponents score about 65 points per game and force them to turn it over nearly 17 times per contest.
The defensive ability could be problematic for Indiana who put out their lowest scoring outputs of the season (both 64 points) against Wisconsin and South Dakota State, two other defensive-oriented, slower-paced teams.
Ultimately, if Indiana wants to respond from the disappointment of last weekend the Hoosiers will need to return to their high-scoring offensive identity and limit Vital and Gilbert.