The Hoosiers are still alive. In a must-win scenario on Thursday in Bloomington, Indiana responded with an 89-77 win over Iowa at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
IU was able to snap a four game losing streak and protect its home court with the convincing win over the Hawkeyes.
But now it is time to go back out on the road where IU has struggled mightily throughout the season. Indiana (16-8, 6-7) will start the road trip at Michigan on Sunday. The Hoosiers and Wolverines will tip at 1 p.m. in Ann Arbor.
The talk all week leading into the game centered around Indiana’s mental state. Mired in that losing streak and struggling on both ends, the Hoosiers looked liked a team headed towards a disastrous finish.
Perhaps they still are, but on this night playing against one of the Big Ten’s worst defenses, IU looked like a confident bunch.
“We were mentally right,” head coach Archie Miller said. “And when we’re mentally right and we play as a unit and we’re doing the things that we’re supposed to do, I think that we have a chance to be a good team. We’ve shown that. Whether you beat Iowa or Michigan State or Florida State or Ohio State, whoever it is.
The win marks the fourth time this season out of five attempts that the Hoosiers have knocked off a ranked opponent at home.
An old nemesis, the three-point shot, became a good friend on Thursday night.
Indiana hit five-straight 3-point attempts to begin the game, including four from senior guard Devonte Green to take a 25-16 lead, which forced an Iowa timeout with 12:15 remaining in the first half.
Indiana scored six more to make it a 17-3 run and take a 31-16 lead. The tone was set. And unlike other times this year, IU didn’t relinquish the margin.
Rob Phinisee made his first two 3-point attempts to begin the second half to give IU a 60-40 lead at the 15:32 mark of the second half, which wound up being their largest lead of the game. Iowa was able to cut the lead down to 10, but it never got closer.
Miller knows that this win represents just one small step — and his fragile team’s confidence can be fleeting.
“We have to be mindful here,” Miller said. “We have a few weeks to go here in the regular season. And hopefully this win can show us that if we’re right and we’re about the right things, which is each other, the good things can happen.”
Indiana’s inability to knock down perimeter shots has been the story of several of its losses this season. On Thursday, it was a major part of the story of the IU win.
IU went 11-of-21 from behind the arc, which sets a new season high for 3-pointers made in a game. Green made seven of those attempts, which is one short of his career high.
After falling behind early, a barrage of three–point shots by Green completely changed the game.
“We started off the first four minutes of the game, I think it was 9-5 or whatever it was,” Miller said. “But he (Green) was able to bang a few. And then once he banged a couple more, obviously the place gets going. And our guys feed off that.
“He starts get going like that, guys know it. Jerome stepped up and banged one right behind him.”
While the three-point shooting was a big story, just as critical was Indiana’s return to what it was doing well early in the season.
“I think we’ve lost that here in our struggles, not getting to the foul line, not rebounding,” Miller said.
IU had 32 free throw attempts and 16 offensive rebounds against Iowa. Both marks were its best totals in more than a month.
Indiana was also able to push the tempo against the Hawkeyes, which Miller believes goes part-and-parcel with the other things his team tries to emphasize.
“Part of not rebounding and getting to the foul line is not playing quick, playing in transition,” Miller said. “And whether we were playing against man or zone tonight, we really had an emphasis that we wanted to keep it simpler and get it up the floor.
“And I thought our guards did that. Our bigs ran. We got some rim presence. And that’s going to be big coming down the stretch because getting fouled, being able to rebound, playing in transition, is the whole key. Not every team lets you do it. But we have to be able to say, are we trying? Are we running hard? Are we pushing the ball?”
For the game IU had 16 assists and 17 turnovers. 11 of those miscues came after halftime.
Going forward, the question will be whether this offensive effort was the start of something, or just a strong showing against one of the league’s worst defensive teams.
Indiana knew it was going to have a hard time containing Iowa center Luka Garza. The Hawkeye big man hasn’t been held below 16 points in conference games.
The game plan appeared to be to make sure that no one else got going for Iowa, and for the most part that worked well.
“I thought Justin and a couple guys really did a good job in the first half and early in the second half not letting (Joe) Wieskamp get going,” Miller said. That’s a big part of the game. As much as you want to focus your attention on Luka Garza, I don’t know how many times he shot the ball where you could help. When he’s facing the basket at 17 feet or he’s a center who is picking and popping, you’ve got to live with some of that stuff that he gets.”
If Indiana’s ability to get out in transition offensively was a key to get everything going on that end, Miller credited the defense for helping to establish the run game.
“I thought our defense in the first half triggered offense,” Miller said.
Thanks to Garza, Iowa was still able to shoot 50 percent overall for the game, but they struggled from the perimeter — another sign that Indiana took just about everything else away.
Iowa averages eight 3-pointers made per game but the Hoosier defense held the Hawkeyes to 4-of-14 from behind the arc. Garza had three of those four makes from distance.
IU also forced 19 turnovers, when the Hawkeyes only averaged 12.2 per game coming into the contest.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Fran McCaffery post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (B) Due to foul trouble and perhaps the game plan, Brunk wasn’t a big part of this one. But he did what was needed — provided a physical presence to try to help slow down Garza.
- Justin Smith* (B+) It wasn’t a great offensive game for Smith, but that is not why he gets minutes. Seven rebounds and his play against Wieskamp were the story. 10 of Wieskamp’s 16 points came in the final 10 minutes of the game.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (A-) 7 offensive rebounds is an elite Big Ten effort, and Jackson-Davis also provided rim protection, got out in transition and was more efficient finishing at the rim.
- Al Durham* (B) The junior guard still cannot find his shot but he did a much better job taking care of the ball and he was better defensively in this one.
- Rob Phinisee* (B+) While he has to be better taking care of the ball, Phinisee was impactful in several ways including facilitating the break and defending on the ball. The sophomore point guard hit two big second half three-pointers and added three steals.
- Jerome Hunter (B) Four rebounds in eight minutes was impressive, and Hunter hit a big three on the heels of Green’s first half flurry. But a technical foul showed his inexperience and likely cost him minutes on this night.
- Devonte Green (A-) Indiana can hang with anyone when Green has it going like he did in this one. That is a lot to put on his shoulders, but it is now or never for the senior captain. He was careless at times with the ball in transition, but Green’s overall energy level and purpose was solid in this one.
- De’Ron Davis (B+) It was a team effort putting up big physical bodies against Garza, and Davis stepped in and did his job while also providing some offensive punch. Physically, the senior looks as healthy as he has in two years.
- Race Thompson (A-) With his most extensive action of the season and a career high with ten points, Thompson continues to make an impact when he enters games. Indiana is simply a much better team with Thompson at full strength. Four steals and two blocks highlight his effort on the defensive end, and a 2-of-5 night at the stripe and two turnovers show there is room for growth.
- Armaan Franklin also appeared in the game.
NOTE: Former players James Blackmon, Jr., OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan were at the game.
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