It came down to the final seconds once again in Assembly Hall and once again the Iowa Hawkeyes had the Hoosiers' number. Indiana fell for the fourth consecutive time to the Hawkeyes and saw their three-game home winning streak snapped. Inside we take a look at the key storylines and events from a tough IU loss.
Indiana fans have grown accustomed to watching Jordan Hulls
carry the heavy load for the Hoosiers over the last couple weeks and he did that once again Saturday with 24 points, tying a career-high. But when crunch time came Hulls had the tables turned on him by Hawkeye Bryce Cartwright
With just over a minute left in the game and his team trailing by one, the junior from Compton, California went right at Hulls, shaking him up on the dribble and finding the baseline to hit a huge pull-up jumper. It gave Iowa a 64-63 lead that would be the game's final score and was the second time Cartwright had took advantage of Hulls in the closing minutes. Cartwright's crossover and floater tied the game at 60 with just three minutes left and was another example of the junior using his quickness to score a key basket late.
When It Was Over
After rebounding a Matt Gatens
missed three from the wing, IU got the ball to Jordan Hulls and let him push it up the court looking to create. When it was clear nothing was there IU called a timeout with 13.7 seconds left down just a point. Coach Tom Crean drew something up, but frustratingly called a timeout with 5.7 seconds left after his team failed to execute. Out of the timeout IU put the ball in Verdell Jones
' hands and the junior drove the lane for a good look at a pull-up jumper. Jones has won games like this before, but this time the ball rimmed out. Remarkably, Victor Oladipo
went high to get a hand on a tip as he floated away from the basket. It rolled just off the rim as the horn sounded on the Hoosier loss.
Tying his career-high with 24 points on 10-17 shooting, it was another strong effort from Jordan Hulls. It's easy to see that the Hoosiers now go as their diminutive sophomore leader goes. He may have tired at the end, but it was Hulls strong start (scoring the Hoosiers first 8 points and leading all scorers with 15 at the half) that kept IU in it and allowed it to even be close at the end.
Why They Lost
Indiana saw a 10 point lead evaporate in a little over a minute showing once again how quickly this team can lose its grip. After building a 58-48 lead with 7:30 left in the second half, Iowa began a quick comeback and 140 seconds later the IU lead was just two points largely because of three consecutive Hoosier turnovers.
Most disappointing was that the game seemed to be turning for the Hoosiers in a big way after Will Sheehey
threw down a monster one-handed dunk on Melsahn Basabe
in the lane moments earlier. The crowd got as loud as it has all season at that point and it seemed to all be coming together for the surging Hoosiers. But Indiana couldn't handle the prosperity and Iowa's quick comeback began instead. Minutes later it was basically a brand new ballgame and all of Indiana's hard work was gone. The only thing left was the fatigue as Iowa definitely looked like the fresher team over the final five minutes.
It's hard to fathom how completely Iowa has owned the Hoosiers over the last two seasons. Their fourth consecutive victory proved that the Hawkeyes are a team that IU cannot simply outwork for a victory. They always seem to bring as much or more energy than Indiana and they wouldn't back down in this one. For the second straight season IU had their momentum stopped cold by the scrappy Hawkeyes. Last season they stole IU's thunder after their first Big Ten road win of the Crean era. Now they have broke IU's home winning streak and relegated them once again to the Big Ten basement. For various reasons IU simply cannot get past the Hawkeyes.
Most Promising Development
The short-handed Hoosiers are asking a lot of their first-year players right now and on Saturday both responded in a big way. Sheehey and Oladipo combined for 24 points (12 a piece) and each had several big plays throughout the game. No play will ring out louder than Sheehey's amazingly athletic dunk over Basabe (another sure SportsCenter highlight), but Oladipo's work driving to the rim and drawing fouls may have been the most important. Oladipo would finish 7-9 from the line and despite missing a big free throw late, he's the reason the Hoosiers were in the bonus in the final eight minutes. The duo combined for 46 minutes of play and 11-13 shooting from the line, impressive by any standard. Their continued development with seemingly every game bolds extremely well for the Hoosier program.
Most Concerning Development
The loss of Maurice Creek
and Christian Watford
have made the Hoosiers extremely reliant on Hulls. That can be dangerous considering how hard Hulls has to work on both ends to be the star player he is quickly becoming. He's simply not a guy that can coast and succeed due to his physical limitations and after a very strong start you have to wonder how big of an issue fatigue became for him late. Without Watford, and with Jones nursing a gimpy knee, Indiana is going to have to continue to lean strongly on Hulls. Finding ways to keep him fresh will be critical. When he's on the bench the IU offense clearly suffers greatly. Perhaps a healthier Jones can alleviate that with his playmaking abilities, but until that knee heals or Watford returns the Hoosiers are going to be living a fragile existence.
As mentioned directly above, life is going to be difficult for the Hoosiers as long as Jones and Watford are both ailing. That being said, the team has proven they can overcome that when things go right. Now they hit the road for a game at Purdue Tuesday night and a trip to Michigan on Saturday. The first game will be a brutal rivalry game in unfriendly territory and the second against a team still smarting from a beating in Bloomington earlier this season. Both teams will be highly motivated and looking to exploit the short-handed Hoosiers. The odds are firmly stacked against the Hoosiers in both, but if we have learned anything over the last couple weeks it's not to count the Hoosiers out. A split would be fantastic by any measure.