Only one word properly describes this year’s Indiana Hoosiers: resilient.
The Hoosiers defeated the fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes 85-78 on Thursday night to move into a tie for first place in the Big Ten. It was the kind of signature win that the Hoosiers’ tournament resume really lacked and IU earned it by being resilient.
Indiana (20-5, 10-2) broke open a back-and-forth game with a 20-4 run from the 17 minute mark until the 10 minute mark of the first half. Indiana would extend that lead to as large as 16 when the Hoosiers led 36-20 with 6:03 left until halftime.
Yet Iowa (19-5, 10-2) steadily chipped away as they responded with a 25-9 run that had the game tied at 45-45 with 17:39 left in the second half. Both teams would continue to exchange buckets but with 9:35 left, the Hawkeyes held a 60-56 lead as well as momentum.
With a 16-point lead gone, the Hoosiers were on the ropes. Their star and senior leader Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had missed on his last nine shot attempts and the Hoosiers as a team were two for their last ten. It felt like all the pressure to win this game, which would give IU their first win against a ranked opponent this season, was collapsing in on the Hoosiers.
However, this Indiana team has actually thrived when it has had its back to the wall. Time and again the Hoosiers have faced obstacles only to grow from overcoming them. From rebounding from a sixth place finish at the Maui Invitational to the embarrassing loss at Penn State last weekend, the Hoosiers have shown resilience all year by never losing back-to-back games.
“When things get bad you can fall off and crumble or you can rise to the occasion. I think that we’ve done a really good job of rising to the occasion when adversity hits,” said Collin Hartman about the team’s resiliency this season.
The Hoosiers rose to the occasion again as Harrison Niego’s baseline jumper marked IU’s first non-layup field goal in over five minutes. That make was the beginning of a 19-6 run that would put the Hoosiers ahead for good. It was also a run that featured Troy Williams “coming back to life” and Ferrell finally making his second basket of the game.
“Troy was like Lazarus, he resurrected himself a couple of times during the game,” joked Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about Williams’ performance. Williams was mostly ineffective during the majority of the game, but Williams ended up being one of the main reasons behind the late run. Williams scored seven of his 13 points during those last nine minutes, which included a see-to-believe moment where Williams split two defenders and nailed a fadeaway jumper that barely beat the shot clock during the final minute of the game.
Indiana still has a lot of obstacles to overcome if the Hoosiers want to stay at the top of the Big Ten standings amidst a grueling schedule that next has IU traveling to East Lansing to face Michigan State on Sunday. The only thing we know for sure is that Indiana will continue to be resilient no matter what happens.