Right, yeah, of course. This makes total sense.
After a disheartening double-digit defeat to rival Purdue, a road visit to No. 4 Iowa appeared to be the perfect opportunity for IU men’s basketball to cave in.
Instead, the Hoosiers toppled the Hawkeyes 81-69, once again reassuring me that I do not, in fact, know anything about college basketball.
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IU’s typically staunch defense had begun to show holes lately, particularly versus Purdue and Nebraska. This boded particularly well for the Hawkeyes, who boast the No. 1 offensive efficiency in the country, a hair more impressive than the Hoosiers at No. 120.
IU played one of its best opening halves all season and probably would have been winning after 20 minutes if it weren’t for Iowa connecting on 52% of its shots.
Entering the half down 37-31, the Hoosiers were in striking distance of the Hawkeyes. However, like an older sibling holding his little brother at bay with an outstretched palm to the forehead, Iowa made sure IU’s swings came up short.
I’ve previously commented how I don’t believe anybody in America can stop IU sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, but Iowa senior center Luka Garza exists in an entirely different galaxy.
Garza is as dominant as Jackson-Davis down low with the added bonus that his desperation flails at the basket somehow always seem to drop.
Quintuple-teaming Garza wasn’t an option for IU, so junior forward Race Thompson was tasked with slowing down the 6-foot-11 center. I doubt I’ve ever pitied an athlete more than when Iowa would secure an offensive rebound, dooming Thompson to another round of trying to contain 265 pounds of frantically pivoting muscle and eyebrow.
Thompson picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes left in the contest, mercifully sending him to the bench but further depleting the already sparse Hoosiers.
However, freshman forward Jordan Geronimo stepped in to give IU some much-needed inches — 78 of them, to be exact — and served as the Hoosiers’ big man on the tail end of a 20-3 scoring run.
The Hoosiers didn’t shut down Garza so much as they clung to his ankle and dragged behind him to slow him down, but that was all it took when the Hawkeyes were shooting 27% from the floor, suffering 11 full minutes without a made field goal.
I thought there was no way IU was going to bully its way to victory against a starting five who looked like they could have submitted audition tapes for the role of Biff in “Back to the Future.”
Then again, logic has no power over the brain-melting chaos that is Hoosier basketball, a presumably impossible juxtaposition of abysmal free throw shooting and laser-focused 3-point precision.
IU shot 67% from beyond the arc and 64% from the charity stripe in the second half, a statistic nearly as disconcerting as it is hilarious.
As is typically the case with college basketball, the search for patterns and reason is little more than a fool’s errand. It’s almost as if a game won by fitting a 9-inch diameter ball through a 10-inch diameter hoop is subject to a lot of chance and random happenstance.
If I tried to follow every miniscule trend in college basketball with a discerning eye, I would have gotten whiplash a hundred times this year.
I don’t think we can say IU is a bona fide tournament team because it took advantage of an awful second half from its opponent, but it would be equally unfair to write off the Hoosiers for their ugliest outings.
Considering how insanely difficult it is to make the NCAA tournament and not end the season in heartbreak, it’s important to amass as large a catalogue of triumphs as possible before inevitable disappointment.
It’s extremely tempting to use this game as a springboard for some bold claims about the Hoosiers’ future, but my appetite is only so big.
I can’t afford to put saucy, spicy takes on the menu when I know I’m just going to end up eating my words.