Indiana men’s basketball, which improved to 12-3 after its matchup against Minnesota, will face Iowa at 9 p.m. Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa. Indiana enters the game on a two-game win streak after also taking down then-No. 13 Ohio State on Jan. 6, while Iowa is 11-4 this season and lost its last game against then-No. 23 Wisconsin.
The Hoosiers will be looking for their first win on the road this season after starting 0-3. The Hawkeyes are 9-1 at home this season, but the Hoosiers have performed better in the Big Ten so far this season with a 3-2 record compared to Iowa’s 1-3 conference record.
Here’s some things to keep an eye on when Indiana faces Iowa:
Indiana cutting down on turnovers
Between 3-point shooting, rebounding and ball movement, this year’s Indiana team has been far better than last season’s from the moment it took the floor for the first time on Nov. 9.
But the Hoosiers took a step back in terms of taking care of the ball compared to last year through their first 12 games, in which they averaged 15.5 turnovers. However, they’ve taken much better care of the ball and cut that average down to seven across their last three games.
“It doesn't matter who we play, turnovers are a problem for me,” Woodson said at media availability Wednesday. “If you’re patient enough, and you work hard to get open, and you sacrifice the ball, you shouldn't turn it over.”
Indiana will need to continue its recent trend of reducing turnovers when it faces Iowa, a team which forces 16.1 turnovers and averages eight steals per game this season.
“Every day we stress from a coaching standpoint, ‘Hey, take care of the basketball,’” Woodson said. “As of late we've been pretty good in that area, and I just hope it continues the rest of the way.”
Rob Phinisee’s role
Senior guard Rob Phinisee started 69 games for the Hoosiers across his first three seasons with the team. His 7.3 scoring average during the 2019-20 season was a career-high mark, and his ability to make crunch-time shots resulted in the nickname “Big Shot Rob.”
However, he took on a new role this season: sixth man. With the addition of transfer senior guard Xavier Johnson in the offseason, Phinisee moved into the backup point guard role behind him. After some early struggles, he’s started to excel coming off the bench.
“I look at Rob, he never once complained that X was starting and going to be the starter,” Woodson said after Indiana’s game against Minnesota on Sunday. “That means a lot, because again, it means you're buying into winning. You're all about team.”
Phinisee missed three games in late November and took a few games to hit his stride, but across Indiana’s last five games, he’s improved his scoring average from 3.3 to 5.3 points. Phinisee posted season-high marks with 13 points and two steals in Indiana’s last game against Minnesota on 4-9 shooting from 3-point range.
The Big Ten’s No. 1 offense and defense clash
Indiana’s defense has been dominant all season, posting both the best scoring defense and field goal percentage allowed in the Big Ten at 60.8 points and 35.3% per game, respectively. Its field goal percentage allowed is also second in all of Division I.
The Hawkeyes, however, boast a high-powered offense, which scores 86.7 points per game on 48.7% shooting overall and 37.6% on 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray leads the Hawkeyes and the Big Ten in scoring average at 24.7 points per game. Sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery and senior guard Jordan Bohannon are also averaging double-digit scoring totals with 11.6 and 10.7 points per game, respectively.
“There's nothing he can't do on the basketball floor, and that's on both ends,” Woodson said about Murray. “He's long and rangy, I like everything about him. But he's got a nice supporting cast, too.”
Iowa’s offense also plays at a high pace, and Woodson said getting matched up with 3-point shooters in transition will be the key for Indiana defensively.
Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Tristan Jackson (@Trist_Jackson), and columnist Da’Qwan Dockery (@ddockery35) for updates throughout the game and the rest of the Indiana men’s basketball season.
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa
Radio: IU Radio Network