IU vs. Iowa Preview

IOWA CITY, Iowa.—The Indiana Hoosiers stay on the road to face the AP No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye arena Saturday in a match-up of two teams coming off tough road losses. The Hoosiers will be looking to rebound from a hard fought loss at Minnesota, while the Hawkeyes are coming off a buzzer-beater loss at Northwestern in overtime. Former IU star Steve Alford is 4-6 vs. Indiana since becoming a head coach.

The Hoosiers are coming off their worst three-point shooting game of the year, a 2-19 performance against Minnesota, and now have the worst three-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten (.296). The Hoosiers are hoping to duplicate their last performance in Carver-Hawkeye arena, a 10-21 night from beyond the arch in a 79-66 win on Feb. 19, 2003. Iowa, on the other hand, is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage at .393, third in scoring offense at 77.1 points per game, and fifth in field goal percentage at .470. The Hawkeyes have been both surprisingly good this year, as in their back-to-back upsets of then-No. 11 Louisville and then-No.13 Texas in the Maui Invitational, and surprisingly bad, as in back-to-back losses against Michigan at home and at Ohio State when the Iowa was ranked No. 15 in the nation.

Consistency has been the biggest problem for the Hawkeye's this year, and coach Steve Alford hopes that his team has turned the corner. However, a late game collapse against Northwestern on Wednesday did not appear to be the progress Alford was looking for. The Hawkeye's basically gave up and could not hit their free throws, giving up a big lead at the end of regulation. The Hoosiers will have to capitalize when Iowa is having an off moment in Saturday's game, and avoid having a long scoring draught like they have often had this year.

Iowa is a high scoring team, with a lot of options on the floor at all times. The team that averages 77 points per game is led by junior Pierre Pierce. Pierce has been the 3rd leading scorer in the Big Ten with 17.4 points per game, while shooting 47% from the field. Pierce is a very good ball handler that can take his man off the dribble and drive to the bucket for the score. He is decent from long range, but truly struggles from the free throw line. Pierce does not take his time from the line and shoots around 50% from the stripe. Pierce can also play defense with his quick hands, and has forced 44 steals on the year.

Pierce is joined in the backcourt by Jeff Horner and Iowa State transfer Adam Haluska. Both average in double figures, but Horner is an assist machine. He is averaging two and a quarter assists per turnover, and has been very good at involving all of his teammates in the game. They are both great shooters who can light up the game from the three point line and change the game in a hurry. Horner is a very hard worker, and if he is having a bad shooting game, he can use his other skills to help his team. Haluska however is a rather streaky player, and if he is having a bad shooting night, Indiana will have an easier night.

Iowa also has a very good frontcourt, featuring a great shooter in junior Greg Brunner, and a great shot blocker in junior Erek Hansen. Hansen leads the Big Ten in blocks this year with over 3.5 per game. He is not a great scorer, but at 6'11", he is becoming more of an inside presence throughout the year. He shoots well from the field, but has not developed a killer instinct to do a ton of damage in the post. Brunner does have that instinct however, and gets to the line a lot by banging on the interior. Brunner is one of the better interior shooters in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers will have to find a way to guard him and Hansen at the same time. Brunner is 6'7" and 245 pounds, so Indiana may have to play a pair of forwards instead of their typical four guard set. Iowa coach Steve Alford follows the teachings of former Indiana coach Bob Knight, which means Indiana can expect a lot of motion type offense, and solid man to man defense. The Hawkeye's get the line a lot, but have struggled shooting from the stripe, at only 68% from the line. Iowa could occasionally move to a zone defense, but only if they get into foul trouble in the game.

Keys for Indiana to win will be shutting down a pair of Hawkeyes. Pierce is going to get his points, so Indiana would be better suited to focus on Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner. Limiting the effect each can have in the offense and with rebounding will allow the Hoosiers a good chance to win. Indiana will have to play Pat Ewing and Sean Kline more to deal with the Hawkeye interior. Getting Brunner or Hansen into foul trouble could be very important for Indiana, and will give them a better chance to win the game.

Gametime is set for 5pm on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, but can also be heard as part of the IU Radio Network with Don Fischer giving the play-by-play. The Hoosiers are 9-8 on the year, and 4-2 in the Big Ten. Indiana is 1-4 on the road this year (1-1 on neutral courts), and having the young team adjust to a hostile crowd will be very important to the Hoosiers, they have their chance on Saturday.

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