The Hoosiers were unable to carry the momentum of their past two performances with them to Iowa City on Sunday. Junior Verdell Jones was unable to play due to knee inflammation and the short-handed Hoosiers couldn't pick up the slack. Inside we take a look at the key events and storylines from Sunday's loss.
The Hoosiers entered the second half after being thoroughly outplayed in the first 20 minutes, but still within ten points. A strong start to the second stanza was definitely needed, but it was the Hawkeyes that quickly seized the initiative, sophomore Eric May
in particular. The 6-foot-5 swingman imposed his will scoring six quick points in the opening three minutes of the second half. A fast transition dunk was quickly followed by a thundering May dunk right through the middle of the Hoosier defense. It extended the Iowa lead to 16 points and forced a quick 30 second timeout from the Hoosiers. Indiana would never regroup and trailed by double digits the rest of the way.
When It Was Over
You could really take your pick here as the Hoosiers never seemed in control of the game. Shortly after halftime it was easy to see the odds were stacked against winning, but there was a small glimmer hope in the second half for the optimistic. Christian Watford
supplied most of that optimism. He nailed a three-point jumper and then followed with a power dunk on IU's next trip down the court to cut the lead down to 13 points with 11:08 to play. If Indiana was going to make a serious run this was their chance. Instead, Roy Marble
quickly hit a couple of jumpers against some shoddy defense and quickly put the lead back out 17 points and forced another IU timeout.
With 30 points and eight rebounds it's an easy decision to tab Christian Watford as the Hoosiers most valuable player in this game. Watford shot 50 percent from the field (10-20) and made all seven of his free throws, but more importantly he stayed aggressive throughout the game by continuously attacking the defense. It showed that when Watford is playing with confidence and has a bounce in his step he is capable of big things.
The most surprising aspect of Sunday's game was just how uncompetitive the game was. It was a completely one-sided affair. The type of game you might expect from the Hoosiers against the conference's elite teams like Michigan State or Ohio State. Instead, it was the hapless Hawkeyes which makes this game a bad omen for what right now can only be called the Big Ten's weakest team—Indiana. The Hoosiers need a healthy Verdell Jones
if they are going to make a run during the second half of the conference season.
Why They Lost
Where do you begin after a game like this. I'll start with the most glaring reason in my eyes—for all the talk about how previous Iowa teams had physically dominated the Hoosiers and out-toughed them last year and how this year things would be different, well…they weren't. Once again Iowa was the more physical team and the more aggressive team, beating the Hoosiers on the boards and to loose balls and hounding them into 37 percent shooting from the field. Indiana needed to show more toughness and resolve early in this game and instead they seemed flat and a step slow. A very atypically poor shooting performance from Jordan Hulls
(1-8 FG) certainly didn't help matters.
Most Promising Development
By far the hardest category to make a selection for this game. Freshman Will Sheehey
played with toughness and aggressiveness in his first career start. Watford had a big game. But neither player had a game that you felt was really, really promising for the future. Instead, I've got to go with Indiana's performance at the charity stripe, a 17-20 effort on the road rims for a team that has struggled to knock down freebies this year.
Most Concerning Development
Without a doubt it was the announcement that junior guard Verdell Jones is out indefinitely with a knee injury. We quickly saw what the ramifications can be when you subtract Indiana's best option to create his own shot. The Hoosiers need Jones back as soon as possible if they are going to make the rest of the season interesting. Until we know for sure how long he is out Hoosier fans will remain concerned.
There's no soft landing for a team that just lost one of it's most talented scoring threats. This Thursday they face an Illinois team that has been impressive this season, spare a few letdowns. They always seem to be up for Indiana, though, and it will take a very spirited effort from the Jones-less Hoosiers to stay competitive. That game is immediately followed by a trip to Michigan State three days later and that challenge speaks for itself as most younger Hoosier fans can't even remember an IU victory in East Lansing. If Jones' knee injury proves not to be severe and he returns quickly than perhaps IU can quickly move past this as an aberration and return to their previous form. If he is out for at least the next two games then Indiana finds themselves at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro with a tough climb ahead.