The Hoosiers had several opportunities to let Monday night’s game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against Iowa slip out of their control.
Playing its second Big Ten Conference game in three days, IU let its guard down at times and showed a bit of the fatigue that one might expect from a tired team fresh off a road loss.
But thanks to some big runs and calm veteran leadership, the Hoosiers erased all doubts of a potential loss and held on for a 77-64 win to move to 5-4 on the season and 1-1 in Big Ten play.
IU carried a 15-point lead into halftime, but came out flat in the second half and didn’t score a field goal in the first five minutes, allowing Iowa to climb back and make it a one-point deficit. Fifth-year senior forward Collin Hartman knows any Big Ten team worth its weight will make you pay for lulls and mistakes.
“In the Big Ten you can’t relax, because you can lose that lead, as you saw, in the blink of an eye,” Hartman said. “But I think it was just a mental lapse and we weren’t playing hard.”
The game dragged along for a few more minutes after it got close, with Iowa hanging around and IU Coach Archie Miller frustratingly pacing the sidelines. Once Miller’s Hoosiers got things figured out, it was over.
The Hoosiers led just 53-50 with 13:05 to play in the game. Sophomore forward De’Ron Davis gave his team a cushion with a layup, and the 18-0 run that followed was all it took for IU to take control for good.
Miller and Hartman said the Hoosiers were able to straighten themselves out on the fly a bit, gathering in huddles to identify what was going wrong at different points in the game. Miller said it takes veteran leaders like Hartman, junior forward Juwan Morgan and the senior backcourt of Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk to provide those calming moments.
“Any time your seniors are out there playing well, talking and communicating, good things can happen,” Miller said.
It was Morgan and Hartman who led IU on both ends of the floor against Iowa. Morgan turned in a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while dominating the paint alongside Davis, who added 13 points of his own. Hartman’s 13 points came from all over the floor, but mainly from his game-high three made 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Iowa’s shooting was what kept it in the game. The Hawkeyes shot better from 3-point range than from 2-point range, keeping in tradition with several other IU opponents this season. Iowa made 10-of-24 from deep, good for a 41.7-percent mark. Inside the arc, the Hawkeyes shot just 36.6 percent.
Davis, Morgan and Hartman led the post dominance for the Hoosiers, as they stayed out of foul trouble on defense and helped open the floor up for their teammates on offense. Players like sophomore guard Devonte Green, who scored 12 points off the bench, were able to get open looks because of the threats posed by IU’s older forwards, Miller said.
“I think our defense to offense (transition) was good in this game,” Miller said. “The skill level that was out there with Juwan and Collin really spaces the floor.”
At the end of the day, IU’s somewhat comfortable win boiled down to two dominant stretches.
A 14-0 run in the first half built a solid halftime lead, and an 18-0 second-half spurt helped the Hoosiers ice it.
Morgan singled out team harmony as the common denominator when IU was able to play well on both ends of the court at the same time.
“It was five guys out there playing for each other,” Morgan said. “I think that’s what you saw tonight when those runs were happening.”
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