IOWA CITY, Iowa — Indiana followed the three-game winning that gave it 20 wins for the first time since 2008 and likely made it a lock for the NCAA Tournament with what was arguably it’s worst performance of the season.
Against an Iowa team they dominated in Bloomington, the No. 18 Hoosiers came out flat and frazzled, falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half and never coming within 10 points in the second half. Iowa senior guard Matt Gatens scored 30 points to lead the Hawkeyes to a 78-66 win over the Hoosiers in front of 13,282 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hoosiers struggled to handled Iowa’s pressure, committing 14 turnovers including nine in the first half. They struggled to score in the paint, losing the scoring battle 24-22 there thanks in large part to five blocks by Iowa’s Melsahn Basabe. They got a combined three points on 1-for-12 shooting from veterans Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones and looked nothing like the team that beat the Hawkeyes 103-89 in Bloomington.
“Our first disappointment was the way we attacked pressure, but the overall disappointment in the game is the way we didn’t rebound and block out the way that we needed to,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “That’s where you establish the tempo of the game. We knew we’d be pressed. We knew they were gonna be aggressive on the glass. We didn’t answer that bell.”
Or really, any bell at all.
The Hoosiers took an 8-4 lead to start the game, but Iowa took it for good when Gatens was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, then freshman guard Josh Oglesby knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 10-8. From there, the Hoosiers continued to find creative ways to give the ball back against Iowa pressure and even in the half court, and simply seemed to have less energy than the Hawkeyes.
“We came out slow,” sophomore guard Victor Oladipo said. “I kind of blame it on myself big time. I felt as though I had the opportunity to take leadership of this team. I didn’t do that tonight. It’s time for me to step up as a leader and as a player as well. I didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t read screens well down the stretch. We came out slow. Dumb fouls. Especially myself. … It just felt like there was a spark missing.”
Iowa went up 37-26 at halftime. The Hoosiers slowly chipped away until it was 52-42, but it was at that point that Gatens went off. The Hoosiers were continually lost on and in over-help situations, allowing him shots that were staggeringly wide-open considering the roll he was on. He finished 10-for-18 from the field, 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. He made eight of his last nine field goal attempts and hit four 3’s between the 7:21 mark and the 4:35 mark to seal the victory.
“Your confidence is sky-high,” Gatens said. “You feel like you get a little bit of room, it’s going off and it’s going in. You feel like every single one’s going in.”
The Hawkeyes also got 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks from sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe, 11 points from Oglesby and 10 points, seven assists from sophomore guard Roy Devyn Marble.
Freshman forward Cody Zeller had 15 points and 13 rebounds, but was 5-for-12 from the field and had to work hard to get anything from Basabe. Oladipo had 15 points, but was 4-for-12 from the field and played just 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Junior forward Derek Elston scored 13 points and senior guard Matt Roth had 12 on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting night from beyond the arc, but the Hoosiers didn’t get much else. Watford, Hulls, Jones and sophomore guard Sheehey were a combined 3-for-19 for 10 points.
“We hit a little inconsistency today, and we’ve gotta get that back,” Crean said. “… We just didn’t attack pressure. We were straight-legged. We didn’t attack pressure the right way. We didn’t attack pressure the right way. We didn’t work for the opening that we’d worked and prepared for. That’s where the disappointing thing is on the day. It would be different if it was something we hadn’t worked towards. But there’s places we attack and there’s places we don’t. We start trying to hit it in areas that we knew they would take away.”