GAME NOTES: The Indiana Hoosiers will try to notch their first win in nearly a month when they welcome the Michigan Wolverines to Assembly Hall for a Big Ten Conference tilt.
Indiana has fallen on hard times since opening the season 6-0, as the team has lost six straight entering tonight's contest. The latest of those setbacks was a 93-81 loss at Northwestern on Sunday. However, all nine of the Hoosiers' wins so far have come at Assembly Hall.
This will be only the third true road game of the year for Michigan. A win tonight would snap a three-game skid for the Wolverines, who have been playing better than their record would indicate. They fell to third-ranked Kansas in overtime this past Sunday, and followed that up with a four-point loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Wednesday.
IU holds a 99-54 series edge over the Wolverines, although Michigan cruised to a 69-45 win last January in Ann Arbor. Still, the Hoosiers have won 12 of the last 13 meetings in Bloomington.
Trailing second-ranked Ohio State by 12 with 11 minutes to play, Michigan put together a fierce rally to cut the deficit to two with less than a minute remaining. However, the Buckeyes were able to end the threat with some clutch free throws down the stretch. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Wolverines, who shot 52.2 percent for the game and knocked down an impressive 11-of-24 three-pointers. OSU was held without a field goal for the final 8:36, but the Buckeyes held a key 17-5 scoring edge at the foul line for the game. Darius Morris paced Michigan with 18 points and a game-high eight assists in the loss. Zack Novak scored 16, while Evan Smotrycz tallied 14 points, and Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 11. Morris has stepped up his game in a big way this season, averaging a team-best 15.4 ppg while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor. He also has five double-doubles to his credit, all with points and assists. Hardaway is averaging 11.3 ppg as a freshman.
For Indiana, sophomore Christian Watford is putting up 16.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest, both of which are team highs. He is the top scoring sophomore in the Big Ten and is among the overall league leaders in free-throw percentage (83.2 percent). Verdell Jones (12.1 ppg) is the only other double- digit scorer on the season, but a few other players have increased their production of late. Sophomore Jordan Hulls is averaging 11.8 ppg in league play, and he is shooting a team-best 49.2 percent from the perimeter on the season. Over his last five games, freshman Victor Oladipo is averaging 14.0 points and 5.0 boards while shooting 54.3 percent from the floor. In their last outing, the Hoosiers were simply unable to keep pace with Northwestern, as they trailed by as many as 24 with 11 minutes to play. The Hoosiers committed 29 fouls for the game and also allowed Northwestern to knock down 10-of-20 three-pointers. Watford led four players in double figures for IU with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
Michigan is a tough-luck 1-3 in the Big Ten, as all three of those losses have come against nationally-ranked squads. Look for the Wolverines to set the early tempo and take care of business on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 75, Indiana 65