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INDIANA 85, IOWA 78: THINGS FALL APART, AND TEND TO SHATTER

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Iowa's trip to Assembly Hall starts poorly and ends just about the same.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that stint alone atop the Big Ten was fun while it lasted.

Indiana moved itself into a three-way tie of the conference lead at 10-2 by beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in Assembly Hall, 85-78, marking Iowa's worst defeat of the season. Jarrod Uthoff led all scorers with a valiant 24 points, but he missed 11 shots from the floor in the process. Adam Woodbury contributed 13 points along with his game-high 15 rebounds, and all the starters finished in double digits. Alas, Iowa had its worst defensive performance of the season, and when you give the Hoosiers runs of 20-4 and 14-2 on their home court, a loss is all but academic.

The game looked on its way to a blowout early, as Indiana rolled out to a 25-10 lead in the first 10 minutes, scoring on 10 of 11 straight possessions at one point. Iowa clawed back to single digits by halftime, then raced to a lead early in the second half, but the effort may have drained the Hawkeyes' gas tank in the process. That, or giving a closely-matched team a 15-point head start on its home court just may not be the wisest idea.

At minimum, overcoming a deficit and trying to keep control of the lead means a team needs to take care of the little things, and Iowa came up short. The Hawkeyes were brutal on the free throw line, missing nine of their 21 attempts while Indiana went 14-for-17. Combine that with a bevy of missed shots at the rim—ESPN credits Iowa with six in the second half alone—and you see how a winnable game dissolves.

If there's a shame to the game, it's that another great defensive performance by Anthony Clemmons fell by the wayside. Putative first-team All-Big Ten guard Yogi Ferrell was harassed into 2-for-12 shooting and one assist on the day, and while he was able to manufacture enough trips to the line to ensure a team-high 14 points, his inability to get into rhythm was a key factor in Iowa regaining the lead in the second half, if for only seven minutes.

Iowa's normally reliable bench mob was an absolute non-factor, as the group combined for zero points (0-4 FG, 0-2 FT) in 31 total minutes. More concerning, the trio of forwards struggled mightily on defense, often failing to keep the Hoosiers from dive-bombing the rim and getting layups—or, in Nicolas Baer's case, fouls—at will. It's concerning to see the bench struggle once again, because when these guys are playing well enough to earn Fran McCaffery's confidence, it lets the team play with fresher legs down the stretch. In games like these, that lack of earned faith puts the starters in an awfully tough position as the game winds down.

Iowa didn't look like the best team in the nation. Yes, that'll happen, especially in a hostile environment like this, but the things that had typified the Hawkeyes' rise to a virtual consensus as a Top 5 team—mental toughness, hustle, and smart basketball—looked like they were more on Indiana's side Thursday night. It was a game the Hoosiers deserved to win, and lo and behold, they did.

This loss isn't the end of the world, and it's only barely more concerning than the one that came at Maryland. Few, if any teams have played a tougher road schedule than Iowa's thus far, with trips to Iowa State, Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland and now Indiana already in the books. Going 2-3 on those five teams' home floors is pretty impressive, especially considering Iowa led in the final 10 minutes in all three of the losses. You'd wish it was better than 2-3, obviously, but if Iowa should panic about that, then basically every team in college basketball should panic.