Tipoff: Wisconsin at Indiana, 7 p.m., Tuesday
This is how you win in the Big Ten. You play tough, physical and tenacious. When you mess up, you bounce back.
You limit your turnovers.
Good teams find ways to win. They overcome adversity. They treat opposing arenas as their own.
They limit their turnovers
Yes, there is a theme here.
Indiana rallied on the road to beat Penn State 79-76 Saturday and if it lacks the significance of, say, beating No. 4 Wisconsin on Tuesday, who cares.
The Hoosiers (11-5 overall) got their first Big Ten win of the season. They did it away from Assembly Hall. They did it with clutch free throw shooting, second-half three-point accuracy and, yes, limiting turnovers.
It is, coach Tom Crean said, a sign of things to come.
“I'm proud of the way our team responded to the adversity of the game,” he said. “We grew up and played with real confidence. We've got a long way to go, but we made a lot of strides this week and it carried out into the week. I think we are going to build on it.”
Building came from obscure sources. There was senior forward Jeff Howard, a footnote guy who plays about as often as Crean sits. In six off-the-bench minutes he went 4-for-6 from the line and grabbed three rebounds.
Yes, that mattered.
There was Austin Etherington, recruited as a shooter, sidelined by an inability to deliver. Except he delivered big time with a clutch second-half three that came after the kind of shot fake you rarely see in these rise-and-conquer times.
Neither guy, by the way, played in IU's last game, a home loss to No. 5 Michigan State.
Yes, there's a lesson there. You don't always win with stars. Sometimes, you win with depth.
Sure, Hoosiers stars came up big. Freshman Noah Vonleh scored a career-high 19, including a pair of three pointers. Sophomore Yogi Ferrell had 15 points, seven assists and one -- ONE! -- turnover.
He, too, learned from his two-assist, five-turnover Michigan State effort.
And then there's the continued development of freshman Stanford Robinson, slowed early in the season by injury, making up for it now. In his last two games he's averaged 10.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.
All that is fine, but the bottom line is winning, and in a big road opportunity (Penn State is 0-4 in the Big Ten), the team made it work. IU matched its season low with 13 turnovers. It has reduced its turnovers in each of its last two games.
So there is hope.
Plenty of work remains. Wisconsin (16-0) looms as a Big Ten and national title contender. There's a trip to No. 5 Michigan State (15-1) in 10 days, and then one to Wisconsin in late February, and then a visit by No. 3 Ohio State (15-1) in early March and then, well, the Big Ten is the nation's best conference for a reason. The days of Nicholls State and Samford are over until next season.
In the meantime …
Indiana took a couple of big early shots from Penn State, falling behind by 12, and then by 15. It could have cracked.
That's a good sign.
It got the ball inside to Vonleh, early and often.
That, too, is a good sign.
Vonleh, obviously, got the get-demanding message. He scored the Hoosiers first 12 points, reverted to invisible man status for the first half's final 12 minutes, then came on in the second half.
Two minutes into the second half, he hit his second three-pointer of the game. A few minutes after that, Will Sheehey hit a three to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the game.
It wasn't easy after that, but nothing worthwhile is.
Plenty of worthwhile remains. It starts with Wisconsin.