Full disclosure, I spent the better part of this game at book club discussing Jordan Peele’s horror anthology, Out There Screaming. When I checked the box score of the game, it was like I had read a 20th horror story with a wretched first half from Iowa. By the time I got back, it was a game again, with it all knotted up at 60-60. Unfortunately, the Iowa Hawkeyes (12-9, 4-6) couldn’t climb the mountain to get their 5th Big Ten win, falling short to the Indiana Hoosiers (13-8, 5-5), 74-68.
Sometimes the scariest stories are the ones where we know the beats.
Payton Sandfort kept the Hawks afloat for much of the first half, with 14 of his career-high 26 coming in the frame, tying the mark he set on Saturday. Tony Perkins turned on the jets in the second with 17 of his 22.
For Indiana, they battled through injuries - Kel’el Ware was hobbled with an ankle injury much of the night but still put up 23 points. Malik Reneau was injured early and contributed just 2 points in 3 minutes as the Hoosiers raced to an 8 point lead inside of 5 minutes. It stretched to 16 a couple times and 17 as they destroyed Iowa on the glass, with 15 second chance points coming on 13 offensive rebounds. Xavier Johnson had a gnarly injury down the stretch.
It led to little-used players making a huge impact - Gabe Cupps hit just his 9th three on the season to give the Hoosiers a lead they would not relinquish - while Anthony Leal - winner of Mr. Basketball in Tony Perkins’ senior year - had a career high 13 points on 4/6 shooting.
Offense was there down the stretch until it wasn’t
It’s been said in many past games that Iowa hasn’t played many games inside of 7 points. Well, some of that is because of how little O the Hawks have gotten in crunch time. The wormed turned against Michigan and looked on that track again tonight, as Iowa rallied twice to get the lead inside of 4 minutes. Their final points came on a stellar set play from Patrick McCaffery inbounding cross court to Payton Sandfort in the corner with 1:42 left.
After an extended break to see if Sandfort’s shot was a 3 (there was no clear angle to show his foot in relation to the line, though I think they got it right on the court), Cupps nailed his three. Iowa came back and turned it over - just their third on the game...if you’re wondering how the Hawks stuck around in this one - and gave up a Trey Galloway free throw. It was his third on the night, notable for a 50% shooter. His others came earlier when was selected to take the Johnson free throws but personally I would have gone with Ware who looked baaaaad in missing two just prior to that. I’m drifting.
Anyways, Iowa looked rushed to get Sandfort another look - a miss - and couldn’t secure the rebound (Josh Dix was probably fouled but no one is making that call in Assembly Hall) after holding IU to a tough shot the next time down. Blouses.
Supporting cast non-existent
Perk & Sandfort were great but ... man, they got no help. Iowa’s first bench points came on a pair of Brock Harding free throws with 7:56 remaining in the game. His basket 40 seconds later were the final bench points of the game. Ben Krikke & Owen Freeman struggled down low against the giant Kel’el Ware. Dix ended up with 10 of his own but that’s not a recipe to go into ANY Big Ten venue and come away with a victory.
The fight of this team
Past Iowa teams have packed in games like tonight. Past teams under Fran have done it. But this one didn’t. They rallied. Turned it into a game of runs but didn’t have enough at the end. I really like this team. I like the way they compete. Tony Perkins and Payton Sandfort deserve a ton of credit for that.
Put a hokey way: I really like these guys and they’re fun to cheer for. I’m excited to see them in person on Friday night. I just wish they won more than they currently are.
Next up: Friday 2/2, v Ohio State Buckeyes (13-8, 3-7) at 6p CT (FS1)