WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana eked out a road win to begin its Big Ten season, nipping Iowa 69-65 in front of a raucous crowd of 15,400 at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
Indiana led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Iowa stormed back to come within a point of the lead with 6:20 to go. The Hoosiers kept the Hawkeyes at bay, however, thanks in large part to a number of key defensive stops and a critical putback off a Cody Zeller miss by junior guard Victor Oladipo. That put Indiana up 65-60 with 1:05 to go, and the Hoosiers got just enough free throws and stops down the final stretch to hold on.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Oladipo’s putback was critical down the stretch as were two free throws in the final minute that gave Indiana a 67-62 lead. He finished with his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and also held Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble to 1-for-14 shooting.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller struggled early, but scored 15 second-half points to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was 5-for-7 in the second half and also a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Junior swingman Will Sheehey also scored 13 points, using his mid-range game to find holes in Iowa’s 2-3 zone. Senior forward Christian Watford also finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: On its worst shooting night of the season — IU was 40 percent from the field — Indiana won mostly with defense, holding Iowa to 33.3 percent shooting. The Hoosiers used man-to-man and a 2-3 zone to frustrate Marble with Oladipo doing a typically outstanding job when he drew the assignment. Iowa power forward Aaron White managed to find room to work underneath the basket for 15 points and guard Mike Gessell scored 13, but the Hoosiers didn’t give up much on the perimeter and won the rebounding battle 46-39.
IU senior guard Jordan Hulls had his worst shooting night, missing on all 10 of his attempts, but Indiana found other ways of scoring points. Ferrell and Oladipo drove on the Hawkeyes when Iowa used man and Sheehey used his mid-range game to beat them when they were in zone. Zeller started aggressive and picked up two fouls in the first half, but then went at Iowa much harder in the second half to give the Hoosiers an advantage inside. IU finished with 40 points in the paint to Iowa’s 28, and overcame a turnover deficit.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: That the Hoosiers can withstand blows on the road and survive. It was obvious throughout that Indiana was in its first true road game and not at all used to the noise level provided by the Carver-Hawkeye crowd or the adrenaline that Iowa played with at home. It was also obvious that Indiana was not used to having its offense struggle and that it certainly wasn’t prepared for the idea of an 0-for-10 shooting night from Hulls. But they held on anyway and because of that, they come away with both a victory and an understand of what the rest of the season is going to be like. They won’t be able to simply athletically overwhelm opponents in the next two months like they were for mot of the last two, and this game will give them a lot to take back to the drawing board with a week to go until their upcoming road game at Penn State.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“This was truly one of those 15-round heavyweight fight games that the Big Ten is full of,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “Where you can’t necessarily land the knockout punch. You just want to make sure it doesn’t get landed on you. We ended up having (four more points) at the end. … Excellent win for us. Not a textbook win, but not many of them are.”
“We did not have a great day shooting the ball. But the bottom line is that we defended, we rebounded, we overcame decision making sometimes. We had a short memory when we made mistakes which is really crucial in the sense of having the right kind of mental toughness and being able to go and withstand things on the road this way. We got some great, great individual performances.”
“I think he just kept playing the game. I don’t think he got rattled. It’s easy to drop your head a little bit when you’re missing close shots and when you’re not going to the line like you think you should, but that’s not Cody. His mental toughness is so strong, it just doesn’t affect him. … He just continues to go. He was very vocal. He was very vocal this morning when we did our walk-through in the ballroom. We didn’t come over here to shoot this morning. It caught my attention … We knew he was going to be a great leader today, and I thought that it was.”
On his improved play in the second half
“I missed a couple of easy layups and a dunk in the first half. Nothing really changed, I just wanted to be aggressive.”
On his putback
“We were emphasizing weakside rebounding a lot in the past weeks,” Oladipo said. “Rebounding is one of my strengths. I just saw Cody shooting it, and I saw how it was coming off the rim, and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
On dealing with “Sheehey Sucks” chants
“If that’s what they want to do, whatever. … I like to be the most hated player on our team. Sure, I’ll take that.”
On shooting against the zone
“Our freshman point guard Yogi did a fantastic job of finding me and other guys. Jordan, even though he didn’t shoot it very well, did some other thigns very effective. I missed some shots that I usually make and I made some bonehead plays tonight, but I still think we rallied together.”
On Jordan Hulls shaking off a rough night
“Shooters shoot. There’s games when I don’t shoot well, and all you guys blast me and say I suck. There’s no question, we all know how it works. Everyone else, and it’s cool Shooters keep shooting. We have that mentality that the next one’s going in. Jordan missed, he went 0-for-10 tonight, and he’ll go 10-for-10 the next time.”