4 things we learned from IU’s loss at Iowa

1. It’s a cruel, cruel season.

It wasn’t long ago that Indiana was winning these games.

In November and December, Indiana created its own fortune with its ability to close out games late. The Hoosiers developed a penchant for grinding and rising to the moment late in regulation, building their 12-2 early-season record through equal parts toughness and resolve.

Since the calendar flipped to 2019, that quality has disappeared.

IU has been positioned to win four of its past five games, going down to the final seconds twice against Iowa, while similarly going blow-for-blow against Ohio State and Purdue. Indiana’s lack of shooting has been a significant problem, but so, too, has its inability to simply make the right play at the right time.

There’s not much the Hoosiers can do when Jordan Bohannon is pouring in off-balance 3-pointers with relative ease. But there’s more Indiana can do to avoid those situations from surfacing.

IU got beat at the rim by Tyler Cook twice in the final four minutes of regulation. The Hoosiers also beat themselves at the free throw line, where their 54 percent success rate marked the eighth time in 16 Big Ten games that Indiana shot worse than 70 percent at the line.

Romeo Langford’s decision to toss up a 3-point attempt at the end of the second half also left much to be desired from IU’s situation decision-making process. More on that in a moment.

It felt like Indiana dictated play for the bulk of Friday’s game, but yet again failed to seize a victory when it was there for the taking.

Just as the Hoosiers survived on narrow victories early in the season, their inability to close during much of the conference campaign has prevented them from putting themselves back on track.

2. Romeo Langford needs to play his game when the game is on the line.

In each of Indiana’s overtime games this month, its star freshman has held the ball for the last shot in the waning seconds of regulation.

Neither shot was the smart play.

On Feb. 2 at Michigan State, Langford settled for a poor, off-balance 3-pointer that missed the mark and sent the contest to overtime. In the final seconds of regulation at Iowa, Langford held for the final shot and actually got a good matchup.

Juwan Morgan drew Iowa forward Luka Garza up top, and Garza got switched onto Langford. But instead of challenging Garza off the dribble, Langford settled for a stepback 3-point attempt that wasn’t close.

“We went high ball screen, they played the switch,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “It’s one-on-one with him at the top of the key. He got a shot off, obviously it wasn’t a great, great look. I was hopeful that maybe off the slip, he may be able to get his shoulder by the guy and obviously get to the basket. He didn’t have it, so he obviously took the last shot and we went to overtime.”

Langford, a 27 percent 3-point shooter, is at his best when he’s on the attack. His willingness to pass up an opportunity to be aggressive at the rim hurt Indiana at winning time.

3. The bench helped keep IU close.

With three starters — Juwan Morgan, De’Ron Davis and Al Durham — navigating foul trouble midway through the first half, IU’s bench stepped up.

First, credit Evan Fitzner. The graduate transfer from St. Mary’s has been stuck inside of a dismal final season, but made the most of his opportunity against Iowa. Fitzner attacked Iowa’s zone with poise, handling the ball from the high post with a clear understanding of where it needed to go. His 11 points were his most since he scored 12 at Duke on Nov. 27.

Redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson also gave IU quality minutes, grabbing four rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench.

Indiana’s bench outscored Iowa’s, 18-14.

“Did a great job,” Miller said. “Did a great job. Evan was really, really important in the first half, being able to crack the zone a little bit. He gave us some high-post presence and scored. And then Race Thompson did a really good job, as well as Forrester, mixing it up at times. They rebounded for us, which was good to see. I’m not real sure on the perimeter, what we got. I think Devonte (Green) played a lot of minutes. But in particular, our frontcourt bench did a really good job getting us to halftime. Evan, I think even in the second half, gave us some positive moments.”

4. Rob Phinisee looked more like himself.

The freshman point guard made an effort to attack, resembling the player that boosted Indiana’s backcourt in November and December.

It’s been a slow go for Phinisee since he suffered a concussion on Dec. 19, an injury that kept him out of action for three weeks. In the 12 games he’s played since returning, Phinisee has at times looked timid and hesitant as he’s strived to regain form.

He finished with 13 points at Iowa, complementing his stat line with seven rebounds and four steals. It wasn’t a perfect game for Phinisee, whose missed free throw with 38 seconds remaining allowed Jordan Bohannon to hit a game-tying 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and force overtime.

But, for the most part, Phinisee was an asset for the Hoosiers, who outscored the Hawkeyes by 10 points during the freshman’s 31 minutes on the floor.