When Indiana went to Iowa a little over two weeks ago, Fran McCaffery's team had a pretty bleak outlook. The Hawkeyes had just lost three straight and faced the possibility of going three games under .500 in league play. That would essentially have killed any NCAA tournament at-large hopes.
That level of desperation, however, didn't shake-up his Hawkeyes at the start of the February 21st game. The visiting Hoosiers jumped out to a 9-0 lead just 2:10 in to the game. What shook up his team was a drastic lineup change by McCaffery. He subbed out his entire starting five, including Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer this season. Before the first television timeout he had brought in two more lightly used bench players, making it 12 players that saw action in the first five minutes.
The infusion of energy took hold after Indiana extended the lead to 17-4. The hoard of players would go on to force 22 turnovers in the game and pull Iowa within a point at halftime. The game went to overtime where Iowa prevailed, 96-90. The 16 free throws earned by the Hawkeyes in the extra period proved to be the difference.
"We were sideways (early). The second group came in and picked us up," McCaffery said after the game. "First group came back in and were really good. So I'm just really proud of how they sort of stuck together."
Jok finished with 35 points,15 coming in the overtime period. He was 22-for-23 from the free throw line.
The 23 free throw attempts broke a 55-year old Iowa team record set by Don Nelson in 1962.
"When we went to overtime I told the guys to focus on defense and on offense, I wanted the ball in my hands," Jok said. "I had a mismatch and in that stretch I tried to get to the free throw line."
Iowa added three more victories after that comeback win to finish Big Ten play with a 10-8 mark. That's a much better conference record than about anyone expected after the Hawkeyes lost five non-conference games including an embarrassing 97-89 home setback to Nebraska-Omaha.
"We're going to be playing one of the most dangerous teams, not only in the league but in the country, with the way that Iowa's been playing," IU coach Tom Crean said on Monday. "We saw first-hand a couple of weeks ago, they're just getting nothing but better."
After the home win over the Hoosiers, Iowa went to Maryland and blitzed the Terps with 16-for-26 shooting from 3-point distance, earning a 83-69 road win. Jordan Bohannon led that charge, knocking down eight of those long distance shots.
If that wasn't enough, the Hawkeyes then won at Wisconsin, 59-57. Nicholas Baer's shooting (4-5 3FG) helped the visitors go 9-for-19 from downtown. Baer then went 4-for-4 on threes in the home finale, a 90-79 win over Penn State.
That's 37-for-66 over the last three games behind the 3-point line, a gaudy 56.1 percent rate.
"They're shooting the ball at an incredible rate," Crean said.
"I had a feeling we would be playing our best basketball in March with the younger group and guys coming along later in the season as they have," Nicholas Bear said. "We're putting everything together offensively and defensively."
This 7/10 seed game will tip-off at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will carry the game. No. 2 seed Wisconsin will face the winner at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday night.
For more broadcast, tourney and opponent details, check out the Hoosier Game Day page.
Projected Iowa starter with stats:
|3||G||Jordan Bohannon||6-0/182||Frosh||Marion, Ia.||9.8||4.5 apg|
|4||G||Isaiah Moss||6-5/205||Frosh||Chicago, Ill.||6.2||1.5 rpg|
|14||F||Peter Jok||6-6/205||Senior||W. Des Moines, Ia.||20.2||5.7 rpg|
|0||F||Ahmad Wagner||6-7/235||Soph||Yellow Springs, Oh.||4.8||3.3 rpg|
|5||F||Tyler Cook||6-9/253||Frosh||St. Louis, Mo.||12.0||5.1 rpg|
|35||F||Cordell Pemsl||6-8/249||Frosh||Dubuque, Ia.||9.0||4.7 rpg|
|51||F||Nicholas Baer||6-7/205||Soph||Bettendorf, Ia.||7.6||6.0 rpg|
|24||G||Brady Ellingson||6-4/193||Soph||Menomonee Falls, Wi.||4.8||1.2 apg|
|10||F||Christian Williams||6-5/200||Soph||Decatur, Ill.||2.6||1.7 apg|
|25||F||Dom Uhl||6-9/217||Junior||Frankfurt, Germany||3.8||3.4 rpg|