BLOOMINGTON — Last week represented a pendulum of emotions for the Indiana men’s basketball team. There was the high of knocking off No. 17 Florida State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, followed by the low of losing by 20 points at Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener.
Indiana coach Archie Miller said it will be important for the Hoosiers to come in with a clear mindset when they face Connecticut on Tuesday night at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City (9 p.m., ESPN).
“We’re on a big stage Tuesday night as we head to The Garden,” Miller said. “This feeling that’s in us right now, it’s not going to go away until you work itself out. You’ve got to earn that right, and we’re going to try really hard to do that when we take the floor.”
Connecticut (6-2) has posted early season wins over Florida and Miami under second-year coach Dan Hurley and is coming off an 80-62 win over Iona. The Hoosiers (8-1) suffered their first loss in a flat effort, falling 84-64 at Wisconsin on Saturday. Miller said the Hoosiers need to become more of a communicating, grinding team on the road. The game Tuesday will present another road-like atmosphere, as nearby Connecticut will have plenty of fans in the stands at the Garden.
“You’ve got to stay more grounded now,” Miller said. “Long, long year individual players going through ups and downs as December goes, wins, first losses. Listen, let’s get back to work. Let’s really hone in on a couple of things that can’t happen. We have to get certain guys to do a better job in those areas, and then we’ll keep moving forward, and I think we will be better on Tuesday.”
The game will represent a homecoming for senior guard Devonte Green, who is from North Babylon, N.Y., a 30-minute train ride away from the Garden on the Long Island Railroad. Green scored a career-high 30 points against Florida State last week, but was held to 10 points against Wisconsin.
“We’ll just go back to practice and do what we do, practice hard and regroup,” Green said following the Wisconsin loss.
Another player with family in New York is junior guard Al Durham Jr., whose father was a standout at St. Raymond’s High School in New York City before going on to play college basketball at Buffalo.
“I’m just focused on trying to get the win, trying to get my teammates to learn from this,” Durham said. “Closing this chapter right here and trying to get home Tuesday and then bring our hard hats and come in with a chip on our shoulder.”
Indiana is 16-12 in 28 games in the New York City metro area since 1972. In their last trip to Madison Square Garden, the Hoosiers lost 76-69 to Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament.
The game is named after the late former North Carolina State coach Jimmy Valvano, who succumbed to cancer in 1994 at 47. Before his passing, Valvano created the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has awarded more than $250 million in cancer research grants nationwide. No. 1 Louisville and Texas Tech will play in the first game of the doubleheader.
For Indiana junior center Joey Brunk, that cause takes on special significance. Brunk lost his father to cancer in 2017.
“It’s a great cause, and I have a lot of family ties with that, with grandparents and my pops,” Brunk said.