Fran McCaffery has arguably the deepest team in the Big Ten, with his Iowa Hawkeyes able to go two-deep at essentially any position on the floor. But that depth doesn’t do a team much good when they have a tough time defending, and that was once again the case for the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes in their 93-86 loss at Indiana.
Both teams shot the ball very well in the first half, with Iowa taking greater advantage of the shoddy defense being played and leading 52-49 at the intermission. Both teams clearly needed to flip a switch defensively and it was Tom Crean’s team that did, limiting the Hawkeyes to 36.7% shooting from the field and 1-for-8 from three in the final 20 minutes. And after allowing Iowa to score 36 points in the paint in the first half, Indiana “limited” the Hawkeyes to 16 such points in the second half.
Iowa needed to match Indiana’s improved defensive effort and they couldn’t, as Indiana shot 48.1% and attempted 25 free throws in the second half. Thursday marked the third consecutive game, all losses, in which Iowa’s allowed at least 79 points. And in those three games the opposition shot 52.6% from the field, with Indiana making 50.8% of its attempts. After doing a solid job defensively in wins over Michigan and Penn State, Iowa’s struggled mightily as a group defensively.
Also of note in the second half on Thursday night was how Indiana’s reserves thoroughly outplayed an Iowa bench that’s both deeper and more experienced. Will Sheehey’s career night (30 points) certainly deserves attention, but the 27-4 edge in bench points had as much of an impact in the second half. And much of the damage was done by Evan Gordon and Stanford Robinson, who combined to score 29 points on the night. Their play allowed Indiana to succeed in spite of quiet nights from Yogi Ferrell (eight points, four assists) and Noah Vonleh (four points, five rebounds).
Indiana’s in the position where they’re looking to improve their standing for a possible NIT berth, barring their going on a four-game run at the Big Ten tournament. As for Iowa, these games represent opportunities to improve their standing both within the Big Ten and in the eyes of the selection committee. But if they continue to defend as they have the last three games, the Hawkeyes’ chances of enjoying success in March are slim.