IOWA CITY, Iowa - After a forgetful holiday season, Cyrus Tate rang in the New Year with a bang. And Iowa needed it.
Tate paced the Hawkeyes with a season-high 22 points and 11 rebounds in a 65-60 victory against pesky Indiana on Saturday in the Big Ten home opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa evened its mark at 1-1 in the conference, and the Hoosiers fell to 0-1.
Tate struggled mightily in Iowa's last three games, averaging 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds as the starting center. The senior co-captain played just 13.7 minutes a game in that stretch as the Hawkeyes dropped two of the three contests.
His Hawkeye teammates found him cutting to the basket throughout the game, and Tate actively pursued the basketball. He turned out only his second double-double of the season. Oakland was the other.
"I just felt like I had to stay in tune to the game," Tate said. "The last couple of games, I think I was thinking too much. I was doing a little too much. Coaches told me just to defend and get yourself going. I did that by getting rebounds and just trying to be active and being available when the guards drive to get easy lay-ups."
Tate received extra motivation from more family being in the stands than normally take in his games. His mother watched live for just the second time in his career, and his sister from New York saw him play college ball for the first time.
"He's an excellent athlete," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "He's going to cause the same problems for a lot of people. He's very good around the basket. He's very selective in the shots that he takes. He hit that step-back jumper, which was a good play for him. He got to the foul line and made his free throws. He rebounded the basketball."
Hoosier assistant Tim Buckley coached at Iowa under former head man Steve Alford. During the time after Alford's exit and Todd Lickliter's arrival at Iowa, Buckley worked with the Iowa players, including spending a lot of time with Tate.
Crean said that Buckley told him that Tate was in the gym working on his game more than any other Hawkeye during that period.
"I don't know (Tate) personally," Crean said. "When you hear of things like that, it's no shock that he's having success."
Iowa (11-4) played much of the second half without second-leading scorer Matt Gatens, who picked up his fourth foul with 12:20 left to play in the game. Kelly also played a long stretch with four personals and was disqualified late in the action.
Iowa was outscored 10-2 in bench points. Andrew Brommer's two free throws were the only points for a Hawkeye reserve.
The home team led by 10 points with four minutes remaining in the contest, but like they had all afternoon, the Hoosiers kept coming. They cut the Iowa lead to 62-60 with :22 to play in the game.
Indiana fouled Peterson at that point and he sank two free throws. The Hoosiers failed to get off another field goal attempt.
"They wouldn't let us use on-ball (screens)," Lickliter said. "We had to make plays. It was a good strategy on their part. But Jeff Peterson made some plays that were really crucial. Our spacing wasn't really good because you don't see it a whole lot.
"Tim Buckley used to do that to us some when he was at Ball State and we were at Butler. I'm wondering if he helped in that regard."
Tate sank 10 off 11 free throws in the game, while Peterson canned 5 of 6. Tate pushed his percentage to 74.4 percent after shooting at a 58.5 clip a year ago.
"And as you can imagine, it wasn't magical," Lickliter said. "Cyrus Tate decided that he wanted to make free throws. And he knew that the only way to do that was to get in the gym."
Anthony Tucker, Iowa's leading scorer, did not play for the second time in the last three games. He played one minute at Ohio State on Wednesday. He was suspended at the beginning of last month but returned to practice on Dec. 18.
The Hawkeyes held a 33-27 halftime lead courtesy of a Peterson 3-pointer at the buzzer. Before that basket, the Hooisers were enjoying an 8-1 run in a half that saw the lead change hands six times and five ties.
Iowa played with two "big men" in the game at the same time with Tate and Brommer running together for much of the second half. That represented the first for this season we saw that alignment as the Hawkeyes had been employing a four-guard lineup for the most part. Brommer's 13 minutes were his most since Boston College on Dec. 2.
"We thought that Andrew was moving well enough to do that," Lickliter said. "We also thought that in the first half they were rebounding awfully well on us. So, we had to go with a little more size when we did sub."
Next up for Iowa is 23rd-ranked Minnesota on Thursday at Carver. It will be the teams' lone regular-season meeting this season. The Hawkeyes are hoping that Tate has found his way out of the holiday swoon.
"We're going to need him a lot," Kelly said. "We're not a real big team. For him to step up like he did tonight, that's great. We're going to need that for the next 16 games."