On this special occasion, we take a look at two kinds of game changing moments -- the moments that changed the kind of game this would be before the opening tip, and those moments between the lines that had the greatest effect on the outcome.
Pregame Game Changing Moments
1. Indiana's win at Assembly Hall on February 11. Iowa just hasn't been the same since. On February 10, Iowa looked like a potential 1-seed, and on February 12 they looked like a legitimate contender who pushed Indiana to the brink at Assembly Hall. But what the game looks like now is the beginning of what's becoming the typical late-season downfall for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has been a shell of itself and whether the pundits claim it or not, that was a desperate team playing on senior night, and Indiana got the best effort Iowa and its fans had thanks to the skid that Indiana started.
2. The minute that officiating crew was assigned to this game. I could probably write 1,000 words on the ineptitude of Big Ten officiating this season, but I could also save myself the time and finger energy by just putting on the tape of last night's game. In particular, Mark Whitehead was consumed by the moment and seemed incapable of blowing a whistle against Iowa or pointing the Hoosiers' way. Were there bad calls for both teams? Sure. But in no game between teams who are similarly situated in talent, size, and toughness should the foul disparity 25-14 (not counting the three Iowa fouls at the end of the contest to prolong the game).
3. Robert Johnson's injury. Unless Johnson is out for a considerable amount of time (into the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments), the consequence of his absence couldn't have been more troubling for Indiana than it was last night. Due to the aforementioned officiating, Indiana was fighting a war of attrition after Yogi picked up a second foul with about eight minutes to play in the first half, and Collin Hartman and Troy Williams picking up fouls every time they took a deep breath. For a team that loves to run and shoot the three, losing guards and wing players to foul trouble can be an offensive death sentence, and it's hard to imagine that Johnson wouldn't have made a big difference last night.
The Real Game Changing Moments
1. The last two minutes of the first half. The entire first half felt like a makeup call to appease the Iowa fans who were incensed by the ending of their matchup in Columbus on Sunday. And though the Hoosiers were hot from behind the arc, Iowa was hanging around. With about two minutes to play in the half and the Hoosiers leading 42-39, Crean pulled Yogi to prevent him from picking up a 3rd foul before halftime, and the feeling for most fans had to be that going to the break tied would be acceptable. But instead, Thomas Bryant and Nick Zeisloft came up with five big points to help Indiana extend the lead before the break.
2. Fran switching to a zone. This isn't a herf derf Crean can't beat a zone comment, but rather just an observation that it was a gutsy and successful move. With 14:32 to play, Iowa called a timeout to try and kill the Indiana momentum after the Hoosiers extended the lead to 14 after a steal and Troy Williams layup. And Fran had to try to find someway to slow down the Hoosiers. So he moved into a 2-3 zone, perhaps a bit of a matchup zone. Eventually, this would lead to a 24-10 Hawkeyes run when Indiana kept missing layups and free throws. And all of a sudden, with six minutes to play, they were notched at 70.
3. Yogi. The good ol' boys say that Yogi has underachieved. The diehards say that you can't sit at the "Big Boys' Table" unless you win the whole dang thing. And until last night, all of that was because Yogi hadn't had his moment. He'd missed his last shot at Maryland. He was nowhere to be found against Syracuse. Until last night. Leading by two, Yogi took the shot that we've all been waiting on him to make. And with one flush of the net in Iowa City, he told everyone the haters to get off his back and his teammates to get on. All that missing to make it the biggest middle finger to those Indiana fans who are in the closet rooting against this team because they don't like Tom Crean, and Yogi, and Troy, and others, was the Sam Cassell big balls dance. Yogi whipped his dang balls out, laid 'em on the table, and turned that moment into his moment.