Game MVP - Jamarcus Ellis. As important as Eric Gordon and D.J. White's contributions were, it was Ellis who steadied the Hoosiers throughout and guided them to a hard-fought 79-76 win in Iowa City. His 15 points equaled his season-high, and he led the team with seven assists and five steals while also adding seven rebounds. Defensively, he did a solid job on Iowa wing Justin Johnson as well. While Johnson finished with a game-high 29 points, 19 of those came in the final two minutes when he hit six of his eight 3-pointers. Ellis also played a big part in steadying an IU backcourt that had to play without Armon Bassett due to a bone chip, while Jordan Crawford struggled early on in his first Big Ten game. It was also Ellis' first Big Ten game, but the junior from Chicago looked like a steely veteran in his conference debut.
Biggest Surprise… How difficult it was for the Hoosiers to pull away. It was Justin Johnson's 3-point barrage that turned a 13-point IU lead into a one-possession game in the closing seconds, but this was a close game throughout. Every time IU mounted a run to go up by six or eight points, Iowa answered with a flurry of its own to either pull even or go ahead. The Hawkeyes did this despite the fact they've lost starting forward Jarrayd Cole for the year with an ACL injury and starting guard Jake Kelly was lost five minutes into the game with an ankle injury. This game served as a reminder about just how difficult it is to win on the road in the Big Ten, and it should have served notice to many of the younger players on IU's roster that upcoming road trips to Michigan and Minnesota will prove to every bit as challenging.
What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana took Iowa's best shot and had it not been for Justin Johnson's late-game heroics, Kelvin Sampson's team would have left Carver Hawkeye Arena with a double-digit victory. While this isn't an Iowa team that will contend for a Big Ten title or even an NCAA tourney berth, Coach Todd Lickliter's team played much better than their 7-7 record would indicate. While all IU fans would prefer that the victories come as easily as recent ones over Chicago State, Coppin State, Western Carolina and Kentucky, the truth of the matter is IU is going to need to show it has the intestinal fortitude to overcome a second-half deficit and win on the road if it hopes to win its first Big Ten title since 2002. Admittedly they'll need to do that against top-tier conference teams such as Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue, but their second-half performance in Iowa City suggested they can do that.
What I Found Most Concerning… Kelvin Sampson said last week that if there's one thing this Indiana team has proven it's that it's a very good rebounding team, but IU was far from dominant on the boards against the Hawkeyes. Indiana entered the game leading the conference with a +10.7 rebounding margin, but settled for a 36-36 tie on the glass in Iowa City. Indiana had its share of problems keeping athletic big men Cyrus Tate and Kurt Looby off the glass, and Seth Gorney was a force on the defensive boards and finished with 10 rebounds. One player Sampson would like to see be more of a factor on the boards is Eric Gordon, who had only one rebound in 37 minutes against Iowa. While Gordon isn't expected to approach the rebounding totals that either D.J. White or Jamarcus Ellis put up, if he can chip in four or five rebounds a night it's going to make the Hoosiers an even more formidable force on the glass.
Turning Point: Iowa's appeared to tire midway through the second half, and Indiana hit the Hawks with an 11-1 run that turned a three-point lead into a 13-point cushion. Gordon got the run started with a pair of free throws, and D.J. White followed with back-to-back dunks off feeds from Ellis and Jordan Crawford. That prompted Iowa's fifth and final timeout, but Indiana kept its run going when Gorney was called for goaltending on Gordon's fast break layup, and Crawford chased down his own miss and put it back to IU up 69-57. Gordon ended the run by hitting one of two free throws to give IU a 70-57 lead with 2:10 remaining.
"I thought from the 16 minute mark of the second half to the two-minute mark, we go plus 16 in the second half. We did a lot of good things defensively during that stretch." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson
"If they had shot the ball in the final 20 minutes like they did that last two minutes, we would have had two chance." – Sampson
"We have a lot of things to work on. You could tell when the crowd got going that we were playing with two true freshman in the backcourt and a JUCO transfer." – Sampson
"Jamarucs is an adapter. And he's a winner, I'm not sure you can say that about every kid you coach over the years…he's a winner." – Sampson
"Armon has a bone chip. He hurt it in the Chicago State game. He didn't go int the last seven or eight minutes, and didn't practice. The first time I saw him do anything was yesterday and he was hobbled." – Sampson
Indiana's 12-1 start is its best start since 1999-00, when Bob Knight's final Hoosier squad started 12-1 before eventually finishing 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten…D.J. White has eight double-doubles in his last nine games and is now averaging a double-double (16.4 points, 10.1 rebounds) after his second-straight 15-rebound effort…Jamarcus Ellis has recorded at least seven rebounds in 11 of IU's 13 games and at least five assists in seven contests…A.J. Ratliff's return to the floor wasn't an overly memorable one, as he fouled in 15 minutes, marking the sixth time in his IU career he's fouled out of a game.
IOWA: Upon Further Review
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