Indiana outruns speedy Iowa

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana played the highest-tempo team in the Big Ten and outran it, defeating No. 20 in Iowa 93-86 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Thursday night.

The Hoosiers claimed their third victory of the season over a ranked opponent and improved to 16-12 overall, 6-9 in the Big Ten. Iowa fell to 19-9, 8-7.

In a came that followed a similar pace to an AAU game, the Hoosiers basically traded runs with Iowa for most of the game. However, the Hoosiers held Iowa without a field goal from the 9:48 mark of the second half to the 1:23 mark. Iowa scored nine points at the free throw line in that time, but Indiana outscored them 18-9 and led 82-75 with 1:23 to go. The Hoosiers hd some struggles against the Iowa full court press but still got the ball in and made enough free throws to put the game away with senior guard Evan Gordon hitting five in the last 28 seconds. 

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: IU senior guard Will Sheehey had the best offensive game of his Indiana career by taking advantage of the game’s pace and spacing. He scored many of his career-high 30 pointers simply by outrunning Iowa down the floor and beating Hawkeye defenders to the rim. He also hit a pair of 3-pointers and several jumpers and also got dunks off of backcuts, but mainly he was dynamite in transition. He finished 13-for-20 from the field and also had four rebounds and three assists.

Beyond that, the Hoosiers had more contributions from unexpected places on Thursday night than at any other point in this Big Ten season. Freshman guard Stanford Robinson took advantage of the wide-open floor and scored 17 points, shooting 5-for-6 from the field and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Gordon, who had been having a miserable Big Ten campaign and who hadn’t scored in double figures since he had 10 at Illinois on Dec. 31, scored 12 points. Sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell had just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting, but he was as engaged as he has been in weeks. Sophomore forward Austin Etherington hit an important 3-pointer and scored seven points.

Because of all of that, the Hoosiers were able to win on a night when Iowa keyed on their stars. IU sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell had eight points and four assists with a pair of 3-pointers being his only field goals. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh scored just four points on 1-for-2 shooting. It was a stark contrast to Tuesday night’s game when Ferrell and Vonleh scored 42 of the Hoosiers’ 58 points. It was just the second time this season that Ferrell didn’t score in double figures.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: IU coach Tom Crean originally envisioned this as an uptempo team, mostly because the Hoosiers don’t have much in the way out outside shooting and would need their athleticism to give them easy baskets in transition to give them a chance to win. They mostly gave up on that vision halfway through the season because their turnover numbers were too high and they weren’t creating enough turnovers on defense to make the trade-off make sense. Plus, their lack of outside shooters significantly hurt the fast break game because if Indiana wasn’t getting all the way to the rim without resistance, there wasn’t really another way for them to score on the break because they couldn’t shoot in transition. Heading into Thursday night’s game, the Hoosiers hadn’t scored more than 70 points in a game since Jan. 14 and they were averaging 63.2 per game. They ranked 92nd nationally in tempo.

But Iowa loves to run and the Hoosiers knew it. The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring and lead it in tempo by a long shot, ranking 15th nationally in possessions per game with 71.6. Instead of trying to slow it down, muck the game up and limit possessions, the Hoosiers ran with Iowa and scored at just as quick a rate. They played as freely and as unhindered as they did in conference play and looked as composed as they have all season.

For most of the game, the pace resembled an AAU contest. Defense was largely non-existent and the layups were many. Indiana finished with 42 points in the paint and Iowa had 52. Indiana had 21 points on fast-breaks and Iowa scored 19.

The Hoosiers ended up with the edge in the wide-open contest for four key reasons. One, was spacing. The Hoosiers used the corners and the wings much better than they did on Wisconsin and that opened up the floor The second, of course, was Sheehey, who was outstanding. The second was the play of the bench. Iowa has the league’s deepest bench, but the Hoosiers outscored the Hawkeyes in bench points 42-26. That was after Indiana scored just nine points off the bench on Tuesday. The Hoosiers hadn’t scored more than 20 points off the bench in a game in Big Ten play and the only time they scored more than 42 this season was the 105-59 win over Samford when they scored 43.

The third, actually, was defense. The Hawkeyes made 49.3 percent of their shots, so the numbers didn’t look great, but they also made just four of their 19 3-point attempts and they also went on a drought at just the right time for Indiana. The Hoosiers had gone to a defense in which they switched everything and did so with a three-guard lineup. That often meant that Indiana had players like Yogi Ferrell, Stanford Robinson and Evan Gordon on guys like Iowa’s Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe, but they fronted the post well enough that it didn’t matter. They scrapped in the paint, knocked the ball loose and made it hard for Iowa to score. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over 18 times and shot just 36.7 percent in the second half to allow Indiana to take the game away.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: On some level, this game was a mirage for Indiana, because their performance isn’t something they can bottle. No one else in the Big Ten plays anywhere near as fast as Iowa. There is no other team on which the floor will be as open as it was against Iowa. The Hoosiers have wanted to run all season and they were thrilled to do it against Iowa, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do it against Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan. The game just won’t be played that way.

Also, this team’s bed has mostly been made. Even with three wins over ranked opponents, the Hoosiers have still suffered too many bad losses to think NCAA Tournament. Maybe this clinches an NIT berth for Indiana, but they still probably need another win or two.

However, Thursday’s was still a humongous win for the Hoosiers on a number of levels. For one thing, it calms down a fan base that’s been more than just slightly agitated lately. For another, it gives Indiana a third win over a ranked team, and all of those are important milestones for this young team.

But most importantly, it’s a win that gives confidence to players who desperately needed it. Robinson had been extremely inconsistent. Gordon’s homecoming season has been brutal. Austin Etherington has often appeared afraid to shoot. Jeremy Hollowell has been the fan base’s whipping boy.

And it was also a huge moment for Will Sheehey, whose senior season has not been what he wanted it to be. He’s had good games and bad games, but he’s often appeared frustrated with his young teammates and the team’s general direction. Barring an unprecedented run down the stretch, Sheehey will not come away from this season satisfied, but Thursday at least granted him a signature moment from his senior year that he can take with him.



  1. That style does Iowa absolutely no favors. It just doesn’t fit that particular roster and it’s costing them games. They have a fairly veteran team with 2 bona fide half court scorers in White and Marble. They also have a low-TO PG who is better suited to running an offense than running the break or defending more athletic PGs full court. They have plenty of athletes, but they’d be just as effective crashing the O-boards and creating problems with their length if they dug in like Syracuse. Guys like McCabe, who’s a poor mans Luke Hancock, end up under-utilized because he doesn’t fit the style. A guy like Oglesby who could really help spread the floor for their best players to operate in the half court ends up only being a spot up transition shooter. Woodbury becomes almost obsolete in this system because he can’t keep up on either end… I don’t think he’s much on offense, but I could see him being a Hibbert-like stalwart in the right type of defense. Uthoff strikes me as a guy that can play in any system, so it wouldn’t penalize him…

    Anyway that team should be far better than they are right now, and in my opinion it’s completely attributed to style. They absolutely make it too easy for the other team to score, make runs, come back from deficits, pull away.

    As a coach, I always stuck to the notion that if I had a skilled team that could shoot it a little bit then I would out-execute teams, so I spent a ton of time in the pre-season running offense, going over nuance, and then some shell drill, box out, and charge-taking drills. If I had a low skill team (regardless of their athleticism) I would spend all my time early on practicing 3/4-court trapping defenses, transition offense and defense, crashing the boards from transition angles, and FT’s.. The goal being to make it as ugly as possible and remove “skill” as a factor in the outcome. Those strategies always worked over the course of a season… Not every game certainly, but over the course of every season we were successful and we never came close to having a losing season.

    It makes no sense to me that Fran is taking one of the more skilled and experienced teams in the country and trying to make it a track meet…

  2. Geoff, Like you you I am perplexed at the style and the almost non-scheming match ups potential by a Coach I have considered 1 of the savvier minds in the B1G.

    I’ve been high on Mike Gesell since seeing him play AAU when he was a Sophomore or Junior. He knows how to protect the ball and almost never hurts team. On D he can challenge and win as he had 40 steals last year and 33 so far this year.

  3. Great coaching job by Crean and staff. A good coach like McCaffery simply got out coached. Congrats to the players too on a great and consistent performance for two halves, and especially locking down Iowa in the 2nd. What a great performance by Sheehey! Outstanding! And what great help we got from our bench tonight. Wow! Even Hollowell showed up to hustle and play.

    I hope this game builds a lot of confidence within them, and they realize they have the talent to be successful against any team they play. If so, we will see them close out the season in great fashion befitting a great basketball program like IUs with continued stellar leadership by Will.

  4. Ohio St. 9-7 22-7
    Iowa 8-7 19-9
    Nebraska 8-7 16-11
    Minnesota 7-9 18-11
    Indiana 6-9 16-12

    Just look at that middle of the pack. Because 2 of our last 3 games are with OSU and Nebraska, we still have a shot to make it near the top of that middle pack of five teams. Minnesota has Michigan on the road tomorrow..No easy task. OSU finishes their season at home, but it’s against a very tough MSU. Nebraska closes at home against a worthy Wisconsin opponent. Iowa is still in the best position with games against Purdue and Illinois at home. But Iowa also has a road game tucked in between those home games against MSU.

    Bottom Line: It’s going to be a crazy final week for the teams currently battling between 4th and 7th place.

    Since 2008, more than half (9 of 17) of the .500 teams(six major conferences) were in the NCAA Tournament[courtesy:]

  5. HC – just a point of clarification… I’m not questioning Gesell’s D, just the position he’s being put in… I’m sure he’s very savvy when he knows where his help is, where to shade his man, etc, but right now he spends a lot of time having guard very fast and quick PG’s for 50-60 feet of court because both teams are so often in transition.

  6. So now if we beat the Bucks on Sunday we can easily hang a banner that reads “2013-14: Back to Back B1G Wins” and put it right next to the one with sweet sixteens. If we lose to the Bucks on Sunday on the other hand — we cut the nets. So it’s a win-win situation thanks to CTC. CTC is simply awesome. (They took awesome and made it into CTC.)

  7. Geoff, I took no offense, hope I did not show any. Yes, he could be more successful in a different coaching style of play with the O and the D. Just trying to point out how strong a teammate MG tries to be on both ends of the floor. It is simply his DNA. I make this offhanded statement for no reasons other than daydreaming, would NV have got more shots last night if our PG was more like Mike Gesell?

  8. Kinda famine meets hunger…Mc Caffery saw IU collapse, watched film of the Hoosiers over dependence on Ferrell and the tendency to attempt to turn the game into a 1 v 5 game (with cigarrette breaks with Vohnle) and a defense that couldn’t find the ball and did the rational…take Ferrell and Vohnle out of the game, Sheehey alone can’t beat Iowa…

    Crean thought about it, since he favors a style similar to Iowa (the express bus doesn’t stop anywhere once you get on), and came to the conclusion that if he had Iowa he would ….(pick up paragraph 1 at the name McCaffery…read to end of paragraph). And decided to drive the same, whole bus route in reverse.

    Knowing coaches are creatures of incredibly boring habit, Crean issued bus transfers to his entire bench, and left Mc Cafferty sucking his thumb at the same bus stop where the bus was no longer stopping…

    An urban legend.

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