After some discussion on this after Thursday’s game, we’ve decided to change up the title of this guy. Onwards.
Well that was unexpected.
Coming off a terrific OT win against Minnesota at home a week ago, and the program’s first road Big Ten win under Tom Crean on Thursday at Penn State, IU faced an Iowa team tonight that’s just not all that good. They hadn’t won a Big Ten road game since March of 2008. They entered the contest 7-12, and only 1-5 in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers were favored tonight. And with the tide turning on this season, with the Hoosiers gaining a little bit of swagger and poise — a Big Ten winning streak! — this wasn’t just there for the taking; it was served up on a silver platter.
But instead of playing like they have all Big Ten season at home, these Hoosiers came out flat. Real flat. Central Illinois farmland flat. It was a performance reminiscent of their stinkers at Michigan or Ohio State. At no point did they show any semblance of offensive flow. The two runs they made in each half, where it looked like maybe they were going to sneak back into this one, Iowa came right back to extend the lead. The Hoosiers only had three — three! — assists tonight. They missed all nine of their 3-point attempts, marking the first time the program hasn’t hit a three since 2001. They turned the ball over 16 times. They shot a horrific 35.6 percent from the floor. (Verdell Jones was the lone competent offensive threat tonight. He hit 6-of-12 buckets and had 14 points.)
But the real story of this game was the boards. Iowa snagged 39 to IU’s 23. But 18 of those rebounds for Iowa were offensive. Add in the early points they got with dribble penetration, and it allowed them to completely dominate in the points in the paint department. They outscored IU in paint 34-16, and had 20 second-chance points to IU’s seven. That’s the story of the game right there. And in the second half, the Hawkeyes also added in what they do best: hitting the 3-point shot. They nailed 4-of-7 in the second half, and with the Hoosiers struggling to score, it helped put the game out of reach.
Most troubling is that Iowa didn’t have a particularly great game. The Hawkeyes scored 58 points, and had 21 turnovers. If I had just been given those two numbers having not watched this game, I would have figured the Hoosiers had won it handily.
You have to wonder why IU came out so flat tonight. Perhaps it was the game being pushed backed because of the Colts, and Assembly Hall being empty for its standards at tip-off. It was a point Dan Dakich brought up at halftime: The Hoosiers feed of the energy of the home crowd, and it wasn’t quite there for them in the first half. Perhaps it was just one of those nights. Perhaps the Hawkeyes were just due for a road win, and IU was ripe for the picking after possibly looking past this game.
And perhaps it’s because for all the strides this time has made in the last week or so, the fact remains: they are still young, they are still growing. There’s still work to be done.