After dropping Wednesday night's game at Northwestern that saw Iowa surrender a late lead, the odds of getting a split were much worse than they were when the week started, as Iowa had to make a trip to Indiana who was just coming off an 18-point road loss at Wisconsin. Indiana was also a perfect 5-0 at home in Big Ten play with 13-straight league wins dating back to last year. Indiana had also beaten league leading Illinois on their home court this year.
Yet when the smoke cleared on Saturday, Iowa emerged with a huge 70-67 win in Bloomington.
It was a huge win in many respects, the first being that Iowa remains in first place in the league with a record of 8-3. It also means that Iowa could still realistically get to 11-5 in league play even if it loses at home on Tuesday night against Michigan State, a fact that the loss in Northwestern made extremely challenging.
But don't mention that to the Hawkeyes, as they are not playing to finish just 12-4.
Iowa was led in scoring & rebounding by Greg Brunner (19 & 8). The senior played one of his best games of the year on both ends of the court. He was tearing Indiana apart on the offensive end under the glass with a myriad of spin moves and during the second part of the first half, his defense on Indiana big man Marco Killingsworth held the 18 point per game scorer to just 3-9 shooting from the first half.
Iowa almost let another late game lead slip away, as they led 57-41 with 8:20 to play in the game. Iowa missed nine free throw attempts in the final 4:40 of the game to allow the Hoosiers back into the contest. Indiana had an open look at a three-pointer at the buzzer, but AJ Ratliff's shot caromed off of the rim and Iowa won its third league road game of the year.
Both teams grabbed 35 rebounds and Iowa had 16 turnovers to Indiana's 17. Iowa had just 10 assists on its 24 field goals, but shot 45 percent from the floor and held Indiana to 41 percent. Erek Hansen had five blocks on the game, with a critical swat late in the contest.
Indiana head coach Mike Davis was not in the building for the game as he was home sick with flu-like symptoms.
This was just the fourth road win amongst the ‘Big Seven' teams this year in league play. Michigan State beat Ohio State, Illinois beat Wisconsin, Ohio State beat Michigan and then Iowa's win today.
The win was also Iowa's seventh over a rated foe this season and improved Iowa's record to 19-6. It might also be an important win in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee as all of Iowa's wins over rated foes this year were at home with the exception of the win against then #7 rated Kentucky in Kansas City. Teams that feast on the home cooking but lack an impressive road win sometimes see their seeds affected come Selection Sunday.
NOTES: Earlier we mentioned ‘The Big Seven' in the Big Ten. That moniker included Michigan as of the start of Saturday's action, but with the Wolverines home loss to Ohio State on Thursday and Saturday's 14-point road loss at Purdue, it might be time to change the label to ‘The Big Six'…or perhaps ‘The Big Five', as Indiana now sits at 5-5 in the Big Ten while Michigan is at 6-5. Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State have three losses each. Illinois travels to Ohio State on Sunday...Indiana guard Marshall Strickland did not play in Iowa's home win against the Hoosiers in January. Strickland scored 18 points on Saturday.
FINAL THOUGHT: Though the loss at Northwestern was tough to take, this team once again rose to the challenge and answered the bell, which is not something we have seen in recent seasons. Iowa avoided a two-game losing streak in league play for the third time this season; the Hawks have won every game following their three league losses.