BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Mike Davis might have missed Saturday's game against Iowa with flu-like symptoms, but the IU head coach is in better shape than IU's season after the 70-67 loss to No. 18 Iowa.
When A.J. Ratliff's potential game-tying, last-second 3-point runner ricocheted off the back of the rim, Indiana's once promising season was officially put on life support. Indiana (13-8/5-5) has now lost five out of six and has all but eliminated itself from the Big Ten title chase, while also putting its NCAA Tournament possibilities in serious jeopardy as well.
Davis, meanwhile, wasn't on hand to see Indiana's first Big Ten homecourt loss in 14 games, instead turning the team over to Assistant Head Coach Donnie Marsh. IU officials said that flu-like symptoms kept Davis from attending the game, and his absence only added to the drama of a game that went down to the game's final second.
Marsh said afterwards that he talked with Davis five times in the morning leading up to the contest, and eventually Davis said he wasn't going to be physically able to attend the match-up with Iowa. Marsh said Davis' absence had nothing to do with rumors that circulated Friday that he was going to resign, and he said he expects him to be back with the team for Wednesday's match-up with Penn State.
"It was difficult on our guys finding out late about coach, and to their credit they came out in the second half and fought," said Marsh.
As has been the norm in recent weeks, Indiana fell behind early. Iowa jumped to a 7-2 lead in the first 1 ½ minutes and eventually took a 38-30 lead at halftime. Iowa's Greg Brunner then scored eight of his team-high 19 points in the first eight minutes of the second half, and the Hawkeyes eventually extended the lead to 16, 57-41, with 8:21 remaining.
But spearheaded by the play of Marco Killingsworth (21 points, career-high 17 rebounds) and Marshall Strickland (18 points, two steals), Indiana battled back. Aided by Iowa's 7-for-16 free-throw shooting in the game's final two minutes, the Hoosiers eventually made it a one-possession game after Robert Vaden hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining.
But after Jeff Horner put Iowa up three, 67-64, by hitting one of two free throws with 27 seconds on the clock, Indiana opted to try to go inside to Killingsworth instead of taking a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Killingsworth was eventually fouled after pulling down an offensive rebound, and hit one of two free throws to cut the margin to two.
Indiana's only other opportunity to tie the game came in the final seconds. After Adam Haluska hit one of two free throws to give Iowa a 70-67 lead with five seconds remaining, Earl Calloway pushed the ball up the floor and kicked the ball across the floor to Ratliff. With the clock winding down, Ratliff caught the ball and hoisted a running 3-point attempt that was just long.
Marsh said afterwards that the plan was for Calloway to try to lure Strickland's man and then kick it out to IU's senior guard. But with Strickland covered, Calloway found Ratliff for what proved to be a wide open look. Ratliff likely could have caught the ball and gotten squared up for the shot, but instead looked to make sure he got it off before the game clock expired.
"They did a great job taking (Strickland) away," said Marsh. "We knew if we couldn't we'd have a trailing Ratliff. I think he had a little more time than he thought he did."
Iowa, meanwhile, was looking to prevent the Hoosiers from getting any sort of potential game-tying shot up. Iowa Coach Steve Alford said afterwards that they had decided to foul before Indiana got the ball up the floor, but they were unable to wrap up Calloway before he kicked the ball cross court to Ratliff.
"That's on me - we have to practice that scenario a little more," said Alford. "It's easy to say, why didn't you foul. When do you foul, you can't see the clock, and what if the guy jumps up and takes a shot and you're fouling?"
Iowa was able to survive that miscue thanks to Ratliff's miss, and the Hawkeyes held onto sole possession of the Big Ten lead while also picking up its third Big Ten road win this year.
"This was a huge win for our team," said Alford. "It was a pivotal game for us in the conference race. To come in here and lead start to finish, there aren't a lot of people doing that."
Indiana, meanwhile, is still searching for answers.
"It's hard to say that at this point in our season we're still learning to play 40 minutes, but that's the crux of our season," said Marsh.
That's been most apparent on the defensive end of the floor, where IU allowed Iowa to shoot 45.3 percent from the floor. Indiana had a particularly tough time matching up with Brunner, who scored 12 points in the second half and finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
"Road or home, it becomes this simple…our defense isn't even close to where it needs to be to win at home or on the road," said Marsh. "We've tried to address that in different ways by trying to change up some things, playing a little zone and pressing a little bit, but it eventually comes down to taking care of your man, and we've struggled in that area for far too long."
Killingsworth 10-21 1-4 21, Vaden 3-7 1-2 9, Wilmont 0-5 0-0 0, Strickland 4-9 8-8 18, Calloway 3-5 2-4 10, Suhr 2-2 0-0 6, Ratliff 0-3 0-0 0, Allen 1-3 0-0 3, Kline 0-0 0-0 0, Monroe 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-56 12-18 67.
Brunner 8-12 2-4 19, Hansen 0-2 2-2 2, Haluska 4-12 4-6 13, Horner 5-11 4-9 17, Henderson 3-7 3-5 10, Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Freeman 2-3 0-0 5, Thomas 2-5 0-0 4, Gorney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 15-26 70.
Halftime Score: Iowa 38, Indiana 30. 3-Pointers: Indiana 9-22 (Vaden 2-5, Wilmont 0-2, Strickland 2-5, Calloway 2-3, Suhr 2-2, Allen 1-3, Ratliff 0-2). Rebounds: Indiana 35 (Killingsworth 17), Iowa 35 (Brunner 8). Turnovers: Indiana 17 (Vaden 5), Iowa 16 (Horner 5). Assists: Indiana 13 (Killingsworth 4, Calloway 4), Iowa 10 (Horner 3, Henderson 3). Blocks: Indiana 3 (Ratliff 2, Vaden 1), Iowa 8 (Hansen 5, Brunner 1, Thompson 1, Thomas). Officials: Jim Burr, Zelton Steed, J.D. Collins. Attendance: 17,278.
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