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IUWBB learns it needs its leaders in loss at Iowa

Indiana was on cruise control in conference play. That changed Sunday afternoon in Iowa City, where the Iowa Hawkeyes knocked off the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers, 91-85.

Halfway through the second quarter, Indiana (14-3, 4-1) was up 34-20 and looked to be in complete control. By the end of the third quarter, it was tied up.

Grace Berger finished with 16 points in the loss at Iowa Sunday evening. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Indiana isn’t No. 12 because of only Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise. They have a lot of talent that can score any given night. Jaelynn Penn scored 24 points, Aleksa Gulbe added 18 points and nine rebounds, and Grace Berger scored 16 points.

The issue is, when the leaders — Patberg and Wise — are quiet, the team tends to struggle. In the loss to then-No. 10 UCLA, the two each scored just nine points and shot 5-of-20 from the field, Sunday evening at Iowa (13-3, 3-1), the two combined for just 13 points and shot 5-of-20 again.

Indiana can win without them playing incredible. Both players’ averages are down this season from last. But if Indiana wants to be the great team it's capable of being, IU needs them to be solid in the big games, like conference road games.

Late in regulation, it was Gulbe who was knocking down threes to keep the Hoosiers ahead. But at the end, Patberg allowed the game-tying bucket defensively and couldn’t find a good look at the basket to end regulation. First overtime ended in similar fashion, with Patberg forcing up a shot at the end of the shot clock from well outside the 3-point line.

Meanwhile, Teri Moren was forced to go to Mackenzie Holmes and Gulbe on the floor at the same time with the struggles of Wise. She was 2-for-8 with six points and for most of the end of regulation and first overtime, and Holmes was on the floor instead of Wise.

There were many reasons Indiana couldn’t put the game away. They shot just 21 percent (6-for-28) from deep and 61 percent (11-for-18) from the free-throw line. They also struggled to defend in the paint, giving up 58 paint points.

No one expected Indiana to go undefeated in Big Ten play. A road loss to a solid Iowa team is nowhere near the end of the world. But the loss does reveal a few flaws and a possible blueprint to beat Indiana. Attack the basket and force Indiana into 3-pointers.

Indiana’s 3-point shooting, surprisingly, hasn’t been incredible this season. Last year, they shot the three ball at 35 percent. This season, it’s down to just 33 percent, and they’ve had multiple games like Sunday's game where they go cold for most of the night. Outside of Gulbe’s 2-for-3 night, Indiana was 4-for-25.

Defensively, Indiana struggled with Iowa’s guards attacking the basket. Kathleen Doyle scored 31 points without making a three. Indiana dealt with a ton of foul trouble. Holmes and Gulbe had four while Berger, Wise and Jorie Allen all had three. Iowa found a lot of success attacking Indiana in the paint. The Hawkeyes made just four threes and still scored 91 points.

Overall, the Hoosiers are fine. They’re still atop the Big Ten standings, tied with Rutgers who they beat a few weeks back in Piscataway. This game just revealed some flaws. But if other teams can see them, Moren and Indiana will see them in film as well.

Indiana is back in action Thursday against Northwestern. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on BTNPlus.

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