February 19, 2009

UW familiar with Crean

MADISON, Wis. - Over the past nine seasons, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has become familiar with Tom Crean. However, when the Badgers take the court to play Indiana tonight at Assembly Hall, the scenery will be much different.

Since leaving Marquette last spring, Crean has seen his team struggle for much of the season. By posting only one conference win to this point, and six overall, the Hoosiers are off to one of the worst starts in program history.

Still, the Badgers know full well what a Crean team brings to the table and how dangerous the Hoosiers can be with him at the helm.

"He does a great job of motivating his players and getting them ready to play basketball and play basketball the right way," UW junior guard Jason Bohannon said. "He's a good Big Ten coach. He gets his players to play hard and realize that every single possession is going to have the game on the line.

"Anytime you play a team like that you've got to be ready to play as well."

At home, the Hoosiers have lost eight in a row. Meanwhile, the Badgers are starting to play good basketball and it starts with more intensity on the defensive side of the ball.

During its four-game winning streak, the Badgers have held opponents to just 49 points per contest, a number that is nearly 10 points fewer than their season defensive average.

"We never really got away from it," UW senior Joe Krabbenhoft said in regards to his team's defense during the losing streak. "We just weren't doing it for 40 minutes. Just executing the whole game on the defensive end, not having defensive lapses where you go under a screen and your guy hits that three.

"These last few games, we've been sticking to it every possession on the offensive end and especially on the defensive end. It's paid off."

During its 12 games at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers have averaged more than 65 points per game. At the same time, they have had games where they have given up 74, 77 and 93 points respectively.

While those numbers are relatively unlike a typical Indiana squad, this year's squad in Bloomington is anything but typical. After a tumultuous end to last season that was full of scandal as well as coaching and player turnover, many knew it would be a transition year for the Hoosiers.

The team is very young and inexperienced, but is slowly getting better with each passing game. In fact, against Illinois and Minnesota last week, both losses, freshmen Hoosiers scored 101 of the teams 106 points.

"Coach Crean was obviously put in a tough spot there in Indiana," Krabbenhoft said. "I love watching the Big Ten so I've seen Indiana play a lot and from what I can see he's done a great job. They play as hard as any team that I've seen play.

"That's credit to the coaching staff, but also to the players that he's got. Don't make the mistake thinking that they just play hard. Those kids have a lot of talent and they can beat anybody."

Tip off is set for 8 p.m. central time and will be televised live on ESPN.

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