First top-5 win since 2016? Yeah, you saw this one coming, right?
No one anticipated ten-point underdog Indiana’s stunning 81-69 upset of No. 4 Iowa before the game, and that outcome looked far less likely with 12 minutes left when the Hawkeyes had pulled out to a 53-44 advantage.
IU flipped the switch at just the right moment in the game, securing a critical confidence and resume boosting victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And now Indiana hopes they found the propellent towards something else they haven’t done since 2016 — the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana (9-6, 4-4) will have a short turnaround. The Hoosiers will face Rutgers at noon ET in Bloomington on Sunday.
At halftime Iowa stars Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp had 15 points apiece, and Indiana was shooting just 39 percent from the field. Things appeared to be generally on script for the Hawkeyes to pull away, but the margin was just 37-31 at the break as the Hoosiers defended the 3-point line reasonably well and didn’t let anyone else get going for Iowa.
“We were able to keep it at a working margin,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said after the game.
The Hoosiers continued to hang around early in the second half, but an offensive rebound and three-point play by Indiana native Jack Nunge tied Iowa’s biggest margin at nine and seemed to have IU on its heels at the 12-minute mark. The play by Nunge was symbolic of the first 28 minutes as Indiana scrapped but couldn’t come up with rebounds or loose balls, and ultimately broke down in the paint.
And then suddenly out of the under 12 minute media timeout, everything changed on both ends of the floor. Indiana scored at will against the Iowa zone on one end, while the Hawkeyes went 11 minutes without a field goal on the other.
The common theme after the game was the week off IU had leading up to their trip to Iowa. Perhaps Indiana had fresher legs late, but by all accounts some serious soul-searching took place since the loss to Purdue a week ago.
“Maybe it was the luck of the draw that we didn’t play a game this weekend, but it gave us some extra time to address some things and I thought that showed tonight,” Miller said. … “I’m just excited that our team was able to see the benefits of getting back and having a great attitude and working hard in practice and doing some of things we’re going to need to do moving forward.”
Iowa played zone for most of the game, and at times early IU resorted to passing the ball around the perimeter. Over the last twelve minutes Indiana looked very comfortable, attacking via high-post entry passes, smart rotations, and dribble-drives. The Hoosiers had Iowa on its heels, and when the game was on the line, Indiana made timely shots.
Indiana came up with points on seven of eight possessions after that Nunge three-point play, and a nine-point deficit quickly became a 60-55 advantage.
“There were some key offensive possessions where the ball moved and we ran them out of matchups with the zone they were playing, and at the end of the day we didn’t come up empty,” Miller said. “Rob (Phinisee) hit a big one. Al (Durham) stuck a big one. We were able to get some pick-and-roll — Jordan (Geronimo) got a big one. We kept scoring. So many times in tough games especially on the road you’re going to need to make some plays offensively and tonight we opened up the lid and were able to make some plays.”
The Hoosiers shot 60 percent (15-of-25) in the second half, including a 66.7 percent clip from behind the arc. For the game, Indiana’s 47.1 percent shooting from three is the best mark for the season.
“I felt like in the first half we were stagnant, but the second half we were moving the ball,” Rob Phinisee said. “Coach got into us at halftime. Even if they are in a zone we can still run our offense.”
Indiana’s eight turnovers match a season low. After a Trayce Jackson-Davis miscue at the 2:48 mark of the first half, IU didn’t commit another turnover until two minutes were left in the game — a more than 20 minute stretch. Against an up-tempo team like Iowa, that ball security benefitted IU on both ends of the floor.
“When you only turn it over eight times, that’s a huge number in terms of being on the road and giving up easy baskets (going the other way) and threes,” Miller said. “That really helps you get back (on defense).
IU scored a difficult to comprehend 37 points over the last 12 minutes of the game. That translates to 123 points for a game, and that figure was aided by the free throw line as the Hawkeyes were forced to foul. What had been the Hoosiers’ enemy for much of the game turned into its ally. Indiana made 12 of 14 attempts from the stripe in the last two minutes after converting on just 9 of 21 up to that point in the game.
Early in the game it looked like Iowa might run away with it. The Hawkeyes scored on their first four possessions as All-American big man Luka Garza made it look easy.
“Early on, we let him get it where he wanted to get it,” Miller said. ” It’s hard to help when a guy catches it so close or right where he wants to catch it.”
Indiana’s struggles with Garza were compounded by early foul trouble, a challenge that both Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson would have to navigate all night. Their reduced minutes and efforts to avoid fouls likely contributed to a 46-32 Iowa rebound advantage including 17 on the offensive end.
But there might have been blessings in the foul trouble, as Indiana went to shorter, quicker lineups and got good minutes from the bench — especially the 6-foot-6 Jordan Geronimo, who took on the challenge of guarding Garza at times.
“I think the quickness level of Jordan, the quickness level of our perimeter people able to swarm the ball when he (Garza) turns his back was a big deal,” Miller said. “I also think we weren’t getting out of the way at the rim. Guys we were walling up and we weren’t fouling. He’s hard to deal with, but I thought the energy level and the quickness level of our team in the second half really rose when we subbed. We stopped standing around and conceding and we started to play a little bit quicker and tougher on the ball, and once he is a little bit further out maybe we can give a little bit more help.”
By any measure the collective defensive effort was elite. Iowa came into game shooting 49.4 percent overall as a team including 39.5 percent from long range. IU limited the Hawkeyes to 38.1 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively. Iowa was averaging a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio but only managed 14-to-12 on the night.
IU made Garza work for his 28 points, as he was just 10-of-22 from the field, but the biggest story was IU’s perimeter defense, both on the ball and on Iowa’s 3-point shooters. The Hawkeyes were just 1-of-10 from behind-the-arc after the break. One of its top shooters — CJ Frederick, didn’t play in the second half, and IU locked up Joe Wieskamp who had 15 points and three 3-pointers at halftime but just one second half point.
Indiana fans still have nightmares about Jordan Bohannon raining 3-pointers in both Iowa City and Bloomington in 2019. He was 0-for-8 from distance, in large part due to Phinisee’s defense, and of course with a bit of luck sprinkled in.
“Some of the shots they took they normally make, but I’d like to think we did a pretty good job on the ball,” Miller said. “In the second half we were much tougher in our first time defense. I think this defensive performance by Phinisee spearheaded our team.”
Once again, Phinisee referred back to the week leading up to this performance.
“Coach got into us a little bit,” Phinisee said of the week of practice. “It was really intense. We had a really competitive week of practice. We just wanted to pick up our defensive intensity and I felt like we did a good job as a team.”
The 69 points from Iowa is the lowest total for the Hawkeyes this season. Iowa, one of the top offensive efficiency teams in the country was held to 26.5 percent (9-of-34) shooting in the second half.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Miller and players post-game
- McCaffery and Iowa players post-game
- Late run and rest help fuel Hoosiers
- Improbable elite defensive effort closes out No. 4 Iowa
- Extended Highlights:
Trayce Jackson-Davis (B+) After staying out of foul trouble early in the season, Jackson-Davis is struggling to stay on the floor. He was dominant at times but also rushed shots and continues to struggle at the free throw line. Continues to put up massive numbers in games where it doesn’t seem like he played great — an insight into just how impactful Jackson-Davis is and can be.
Armaan Franklin (B+) Franklin’s second half defense on Wieskamp was a major story in the game. The shot still isn’t back, but Franklin played 37 minutes which suggests his ankle and stamina are fine. Indiana needs Franklin in attack mode, but he will need to cut down on turnovers.
Race Thompson (B+) Like Jackson-Davis, Thompson needs to stay on the floor, but the minutes he gave defensively against Garza were priceless. Did an exceptional job of keeping Garza’s post-catches out of the paint where Indiana’s guards could help more effectively, and his late game passing was sharp.
Al Durham (B+) It wasn’t a great shooting night from the field, but everything else was on point. Durham defended well, took care of the ball, and was 8-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Rob Phinisee (A+ / Player of the game) Miller called it “one of the best defensive performances of his college career” and he could have just as well said the same of Phinisee’s offensive performance. There is a sense that Indiana’s fortunes rise and fall with Phinisee, and never was that more apparent than Thursday night.
Jerome Hunter (B) Hunter had one of his better defensive games and had good energy throughout. He wasn’t a factor offensively and had a couple bad-pass turnovers. He was on the floor for much of Indiana’s strong second half effort.
Jordan Geronimo (A) The ask was significant and Geronimo responded. The freshman used his length and quickness to bother Garza, and he made the right reads on the other end of the floor, passing, screening and cutting. “His contribution tonight was awesome,” Miller said.
Anthony Leal (A) Leal is quickly developing a reputation as a guy that isn’t afraid of the moment as he stepped up and hit a game-tying second half 3-pointer. Clearly a player that is growing more comfortable as the season rolls on.
Khristian Lander (B) Although he only played four minutes, it should be noted that Lander was on the floor when IU turned a 53-44 deficit into a tie game.
Player of the game tracker: Jackson-Davis (6), Thompson (3), Phinisee (3), Franklin (2), Durham (1).
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