Bloomington- What a day for Indiana Athletics.
Not only did Bill Lynch complete the program's best football recruiting class in years, but the men's basketball team scored their first Big Ten win on the hardwood.
Indiana ended its 11-game losing streak by defeating a resilient Iowa Hawkeyes team that was playing without Cyrus Tate, who scored 22 points in the first meeting between the teams. The outcome was in doubt until the final horn, but the Hoosiers prevailed, 68-60. There were a lot of factors that played into the victory for Indiana, but there were several that stood out.
The first was turnovers, which has been Indiana's Achilles heel this year. The Hoosiers entered the contest averaging a Big Ten-worst 18.4 per outing but had a season-low 11 against the Hawkeyes. Indiana was particularly good in the second half, turning it over only three times. The Hawkeyes committed 14 turnovers during the game, with seven in each half.
Indiana took advantage of those Hawkeye turnovers, scoring 20 points off of the mishaps. "It was crucial. We talked about that at halftime. That is ultimately what our team is going to be like at Indiana. We are going to be a team that creates points off turnovers," Crean said.
The second key to Indiana's first Big Ten victory was its defense early and late. While Indiana only won by eight, they were up by as much as 20 in the second half. Iowa slowly crept back into the game, cutting the lead to three with 44 seconds left.
"Our (defense) got very lax in the last 5-6 minutes of the game but we were able to hold on to it," said Crean. "They never got the lead and we were able to make some big plays down the stretch. And that will help us. It will help us immensely to know now that we can finish it off at this level. And that is what our focus has been...finishing."
Junior Devan Dumes thought that defensive stops were the single most important factor in preserving the win late. "We didn't panic. We know we missed a few free throws but we didn't panic. We stuck with our defense and really dug down deep down inside and we got a steal and a layup and everybody finished and we didn't give up," he said.
One of the things Tom Crean emphasizes to his team is getting three defensive stops in a row, and the Hoosiers did that on four occasions last night, and they scored on each possession immediately following the third stop.
The third key factor is one that has been impressing Crean for quite some time. The Assembly Hall crowd, while a little lighter than the last few games, was still supportive of their Hoosiers.
"I tried my best to shake as many hands as I could. I would have liked to have shaken the hand of everyone that was in this building tonight," Crean said. "I cannot believe what this crowd brings; what this Hoosier Nation brings to this team."
Crean's players also praised the Hoosier faithful.
"[Assembly Hall] is where I really wanted it, at home. We get so much support from the fans, I want to see them feel what we feel. That was the loudest I've heard Assembly Hall, I couldn't hear myself think," said Malik Story.
Other factors that played into the Hoosiers' victory were the play of Kyle Taber and the play of Dumes. While Taber's stats might not turn heads, Indiana's lone senior did a lot of the little things to help his team. He played a career-high 37 minutes, and tied a career high with seven points to go along with eight rebounds. Dumes added a career-high 27 points on near perfect 8-9 shooting, including 5-5 from long range in 35 minutes.
Up next is a road test against Michigan State, where Tom Crean was once an assistant under Tom Izzo. The same keys will be important then, as in every game going forward for Crean's young team.
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