Just three nights after a loss likely kicked them out of the race for the four seed in the Big Ten Tournament, the #21/19 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-6, 9-6) look to bounce back against the Indiana Hoosiers (13-13, 4-11). In their first tussle, the Hawks beat IU, 77-72 at Assembly Hall.
Since that game, the Hoosiers have lost three straight: two tight home losses to Ohio State and Purdue sandwiching a blowout at The Barn against Minnesota. Their win over Michigan State was only the second since the calendar flipped to 2019, the first of which was a home win against Illinois on January 3rd.
As detailed in yesterday’s power rankings, their 2-11 record would be the worst in the conference if the December games did not count. Yet, KenPom still rates them as the 48th best team in the country and has projected the game as a relatively tight Hawkeye win, 77-70.
There’s reason to believe this game will be similarly tight despite their apparent downward spiral. Romeo Langford had cool 22 points last time out on 7/12 shooting. He’s scored in double digits in all but two conference games and his 17.1 points per game ranks 6th in the conference. Senior Juwann Morgan has also had a fair amount of success in his career against Iowa. He’s averaged 12.2 points and 5.4 boards on 66.7% shooting in 5 games he’s seen significant time. The flipside of that is he’s tallied 3.8 fouls per game.
Since those two are Indiana’s only double digit scorers, Archie Miller will be looking for an x-factor or two to supplement Langford and Morgan. Devonte Green has had a largely mediocre career at Indiana and is averaging 7.8 points on just 35.3% shooting (37.5% from deep). You might remember (or not, Iowa was 12-16) he torched Iowa for 18 points on 7/10 shooting the last year when they last came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He also added 6 assists. (Thankfully Robert Johnson is not around to shoot 9/12 from deep again).
De’Ron Davis was also a bit of a magician in the high post a couple weeks ago with an Ethan Happ-like 7 assists. He’s since taken over a starting role and could play an even larger factor against the Hawkeyes’ zone. Ultimately, for Indiana to make it a game, it’s going to come down to whether they’re able to make some shots. In conference play, they’re a league-worst 26.7% from deep. In fact, they’ve only had 4 Hoosiers make 4 or more threes in a game all season. Iowa, for reference, has 15 such instances.
Naturally, someone will pop off to make 4 this evening. My money is on Aljami Durham.
So where does that leave Iowa?
Mitigate the star power
This comes about a couple different ways, but Iowa was very successful last time out turning Romeo Langford into a three point shooter. Seven of his 12 attempts were from deep and as a 26.7% shooter from deep, you live with those odds. Additionally, the Hawkeyes were effective in mitigating Indiana’s transition game, where NBA prospects flourish. After yielding seven fast break points within the first couple minutes, Iowa was much more patient on offense, had just nine turnovers, and rarely allowed the floor to get out of balance. They limited them to just 14 on the game.
Juwann Morgan is someone who can largely get his against Iowa. Thankfully, the Hawkeyes have been fairly successful in keeping him on the bench through foul trouble. I think I speak for all Hawkeye fans when I say a return from Luka Garza would be much appreciated. Let’s hope he can help affect Morgan’s game by drawing a couple first half fouls and really opening up the game for Iowa.
After racking up 42 and 46 first half points against Michigan and Indiana, Iowa has gone the wrong direction in first half scoring with 35, 32, and 23 points each of the last three games. Of course, part of this is the nature of the game and competition. Some shots go in, some don’t. Northwestern, Maryland, and Rutgers all allow 68 points or less a game, well below Iowa’s scoring average at 80.5. Some regression was bound to happen, especially in the 75% of the way through the Big Ten schedule.
Still, it would be great to see Iowa get going early, especially Iowa’s own freshman, Joe Wieskamp. Against Indiana, all four of his baskets came within 13 minutes of the opening tip before Langford’s defense tightened up. After trudging through a couple games with back pain, he’s said he’s in much better shape. What better way to prove that than starting just like his first outing against the Hoosiers?
Despite Iowa’s bench players combining for 26 points against Maryland, the most this calendar year, the offense with bench-heavy lineups often stagnated and didn’t build any distance against a similarly stale Terrapin squad. Iowa’s bench players also combined for half of the team’s 14 turnovers.
Perhaps the best example of mixing in the right bench combination is when Iowa adjusted against those transition baskets against Indiana. Fran kept Wieskamp and Tyler Cook out there with Connor McCaffery, Maishe Dailey, and Ryan Kriener. The group went on a 10-3 run and Iowa never relinquished the lead again.