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Indiana 103, Iowa 89: Hoosier offense explodes.

After a rough five-game stretch and with a four game losing streak to Iowa, most of us were hoping for a strong statement and a comfortable win against Iowa, and we got exactly that. While there were plenty of flaws in the Hoosiers' performance, particularly defensively, IU led by 17 at halftime, never really let the Hawkeyes back into it despite a very strong second half shooting performance by Iowa, and posted its highest point total in Big Ten play since scoring 112 on Iowa in 1995. To put this offensive performance in perspective, this is the first time since IU's 108-88 win over George Washington in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament that IU has scored 100 or more against any opponent other than a pre-conference tomato can. IU's 1.385 points per possession was the fourth-best offensive performance of the Crean era, and the other victims have been Howard, Stony Brook, and South Carolina State.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that Iowa's 1.197 points per possession was IU's second-worst total of the season. Perhaps I should be, but I'm not overly concerned by that. I think there is a natural tendency in a game where a team scores at the rate that IU was scoring to ease up a bit on defense. Unquestionably that happened, and in addition, Iowa simply shot the ball very well. Some of it was attributable to IU's defense, but Iowa hit some fairly well-contested shots. Also, at the final media timeout, with 3:50 remaining, IU led 96-75, at which point Tom Crean began clearing the bench. From that point forward, Iowa scored 14 points on six possessions. At the final TV timeout, Iowa was averaging 1.10 points per possession, which isn't a great defensive performance, but the Hawkeyes' garbage time run definitely had a significant impact on the final stats.

As it was, however, the Hawkeyes had an excellent shooting day, finishing at 63 percent from the field and at 79 percent in the second half. The most encouraging thing about IU's performance is that the Hoosiers excelled in areas that have been problems. First, turnovers: IU's 13 may seem like a high number, but in a 74 possession game, it comes out to 17.5 percent, IU's third best performance in Big Ten play. Iowa turned the ball over on 22.9 percent of its possessions, which is IU's second-best defensive number of the Big Ten season. Also, the Hoosiers dominated the offensive boards, grabbing 57.1 percent of OR opportunities and leading to 23 second chance points. IU shot only 4-16 from the perimeter, compared to 8-15 for Iowa, but IU's rebounding performance led to 13 more shot attempts and 10 more free throw attempts (IU was 25-31 from the line compared to 13-21 for Iowa).

Individual notes:

  • Cody Zeller had his best game as a Hoosier. I think we have found the key to "GET THE BALL TO ZELLER!!!" IU needs to convince all of its future opponents to collapse on the ball whenever a guard drives into the lane. Got it, Michigan? Got it Purdue? You don't want to give up a bunch of 10 foot floaters to Verdell Jones III. Zeller scored a career high 26 on 11-2 from the field, most of which were uncontested layups or dunks. He had only four rebounds. Perhaps his wrists were sore from making so much contact with the rim.
  • Verdell Jones III was only 4-10 from the field but finished with 14 points thanks to 6-7 from the line and he also had 9 assists to 3 turnovers.
  • Tom Pritchard had an excellent game off of the bench, scoring 7 points and grabbing 4 boards (3 offensive) in 13 minutes.
  • Derek Elston was instrumental in IU putting some space between the Hoosiers and the Hawkeyes in the first half.
  • IU changed its lineup for the first time all season, switching out Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, and the change went well for both of them. Sheehey scored 10 points and had 4 boards in 22 minutes, Oladipo had 12 points and 6 boards in 23 minutes.
Well, I think the team needed that. While a win in Madison would have been nice, IU went toe-to-toe with the Badgers for 39 minutes in a slow-paced, defensive-oriented game, and then trampled Iowa in a fast-paced offensive-oriented game. This was generally a good week for the team, but now, IU faces its toughest remaining week of the season: road trips to Michigan and Purdue. As I said earlier, an 0-2 record in those games isn't a disaster in itself, but I don't like the idea of being 5-7 in the conference, even if the final 6 games of the schedule are favorable. I don't quite believe the Pomeroy projection that gives IU a 54 percent chance of winning in Ann Arbor and a 55 percent chance in West Lafayette, but winning at least one of these two would be an important step forward for a team that still has only one Big Ten road win.