Iowa City, Ia. — It was a slugfest more than a beauty contest. If anything, No. 5 Indiana’s 69-65 victory over Iowa at sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Monday’s Big Ten basketball opener was a story of survival.
“Truly one of those 15-round fight games that the Big Ten is full of,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said after winning at Iowa for the first time in five tries. “You can’t necessarily land the knockout punch. You just want to make sure it doesn’t land on you.”
The Hoosiers, now 12-1 and the nation’s top-ranked team until an overtime loss to Butler on Dec. 15, made a few more plays than an 11-3 Iowa team looking for a signature victory.
“That’s something special about basketball,” said Aaron White, who led Iowa with 15 points. “It’s a bunch of little plays that lead to a big collective effort. We didn’t make some of the little plays that we had to.”
White was in the middle of two of them. Iowa was trailing 57-56 with just more than 6 minutes to play when he raced down the floor in transition. Josh Oglesby put too much air under the ball and it sailed out-of-bounds.
And Iowa was down 63-60 when Victor Oladipo snuck inside of White to rebound Cody Zeller’s miss and put it back in at the 1:04 mark.
“I should have fouled him,” White said.
Zach McCabe missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game at 65-all
with :27.5 to go, after a steal on an in-bounds pass. That play proved to be the Hawkeyes final chance to pull off the upset.
“You know, I’m not into that,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said when asked about moral victories. “What I am, I’m going to be honest with them. I was impressed with our fight. We have great character on this team.”
Iowa hung in to the end, even though leading scorer Devyn Marble had a miserable shooting game. Marble was just 1-of-14 from the field, though he did make 12-of-13 free throws.
“I’ll continue to be focused and remain positive,” Marble said. “Plenty of my shots felt good. That happens to the best of shooters. I’m not worried about it.”
Freshman guard Mike Gesell finished with 13 points and drew praise from McCaffery. Afterward, Gesell was fretting about the little things that turned victory into defeat.
“If we cut down a few of our mistakes, I think it’s a whole different game,” Gesell said. “We had some turnovers on key possessions. We didn’t get a few rebounds on key possessions. Once we figure things out, we’re going to be a very good ballclub.”
Defensively, the Hawkeyes held the nation’s highest-scoring team 15 points below their average. All-American center Cody Zeller finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Oladipo had 14 points and 10 rebounds and played strong defense against Marble to help overcome Jordan Hulls’ 0-for-10 shooting from the field.
The Hoosiers also entered the game ranked third nationally in field-goal percentage at .520, but shot 40 percent Monday. And the Hoosiers, fourth nationally in 3-point shooting at 42.1 percent, made just four of their 14 tries.
Iowa also struggled from behind the 3-point line again, making only 3-of-17 attempts, and shot 33.3 percent from the field.
“We didn’t win this game on offense,” Crean said. “Fortunately, we didn’t lose it.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball