We’ve seen this movie before and IU fans never like the way it ends. Sure the beginning is fun, the team plays well and builds a lead — only to have it slip through their hands in the waining minutes.
Leading by seven at the half, Indiana had its first road win in sight. Shooting 58 percent from the field while holding the nation’s leading scorer in Keegan Murray to just six points meant IU had executed its game plan for the first 20 minutes.
It was a game of runs early, but Iowa dealt the finishing blow resulting in a 83-74 victory for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa benefited from a career night by Kris Murray, twin brother of Keegan. Kris scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds off the bench. Both were career highs. Keegan Murray was in foul trouble for most of the game, meaning Iowa would have to lean on alternative scoring sources. Iowa has the personnel beyond Keegan to score and showed that on Thursday night.
It was the 11th time Iowa has scored over 80 points this season. The Hawkeyes have only lost once when doing so.
For the Hoosiers thus far, leaving the state of Indiana has meant their chances of winning are slim to none.
Head coach Mike Woodson spoke postgame on what it takes to win on the road.
“Turnovers, rebounding and free throws are the three areas you have to be great at to win on the road… and we struck out on all three,” Woodson said.
Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Woodson is spot on here. There are times when IU has performed poorly in these areas and won — every instance has occurred at home.
Indiana’s play against Iowa’s full-court press and half-court zone was especially concerning. IU committed 23 turnovers leading to 34 Hawkeye points (41 percent of their total). In the second half there were more instances of Indiana looking lost on the offensive end than actually putting together productive possessions.
This starts with the point guard play. Much has been made about their poor shooting from the field, but now initiating the offense and taking care of the ball have become serious issues. Rob Phinisee and Xavier Johnson combined for nine points and eight turnovers on 3-for-12 shooting. All after playing an outstanding first half against Minnesota on Sunday when it looked like they had turned things around.
Johnson’s foul trouble has affected his rhythm on the court all season. He leads the team in personal fouls (2.8 per game) and with Woodson’s unwillingness to play Khristian Lander, the team looks to Phinisee who struggles to fill the holes created by Johnson’s constant absence.
Woodson voiced his displeasure with how IU’s guards handled Iowa’s zone defense.
“We didn’t handle it,” Woodson said. “Rob and X didn’t handle it well at all.”
On top of the turnovers, the rebounding discrepancy against Iowa was inexcusable and hard to comprehend. Iowa shot a worse percentage from the field and had its leading rebounder in foul trouble all night. On their own, the Murray brothers combined for more rebounds (20) than Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Jordab Geronimo, Michael Durr, Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway (19) combined.
This is an IU team leading the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game at almost 31 coming into Thursday night.
“When (Iowa) made the run in the second half, there was a two-minute stretch where we couldn’t get a rebound,” Woodson said. “They kept getting offensive rebounds until they either drew a foul or put it back in.”
The free-throw shooting discrepancy between IU and its opponents is consistently staggering. Shooting just 5-for-11 in the second-half of a road game in conference is sure to come back and bite you. This is problem that goes back years with this core unit but until this group make foul shots consistently, IU will always be at a disadvantage late in ball games.
Indiana has a great chance to the quiet the narrative of its road struggles when it travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska on Jan. 17.
Woodson aims to have his team prepared to get back in the win column during an important stretch of games starting with Nebraska.
“They’ll be ready for us… we have to go there and commit ourselves for 40 minutes,” Woodson said.