Thursday night was a crossroads for Indiana’s season.
Having lost four straight and with four of the next five on the road, the Hoosiers were in the process of seeing a good start to the season go to waste unless they could regain the confidence that has been lacking ever since blowing a late lead at home to Maryland just two weeks ago.
The Hoosiers regained that confidence in the first half of what would end up being an 89-77 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. With former players (former teammates for some players) in attendance, Indiana found confidence again and completely blitzed an overwhelmed Hawkeyes team to the tune of 49 first half points. It’s the most points the Hoosiers have scored in a half during Big Ten conference play and just the fifth time they have scored at least 40 in a half against a conference opponent. IU followed it up with their sixth 40+ point half to seal the game after halftime.
In need of a jolt, the Hoosiers [16-8 (6-7)] received a huge performance from senior Devonte Green, who hit seven three-pointers, including four during a game-altering 26-7 run after Iowa had previously opened the game with a 9-5 lead. The Hawkeyes [17-8 (8-6)] never got the deficit to single-digits during the remainder of the game, getting as close as 10 on three different occasions but never breaking through.
Green finished with a team-high 27 points with his older brother Danny Green of the Los Angeles Lakers in attendance. Devonte downplayed the impact of his brother being in attendance helping him find some inner confidence, but Indiana Coach Archie Miller joked that it might not have been a coincidence.
“I was just talking to (Devonte’s) brother, Danny, in the locker room, see if he could skip the regular season for the Lakers and see if he could hang around here a little bit. See if that helped (spark Devonte),” joked Miller. “He said he couldn’t. Maybe we can Facetime him every day, I don’t know.”
Whatever it was that sparked Green was exactly what Indiana needed.
“We really needed it. Our team needs some type of confidence boost in big games,” said Miller. “When he’s played well, we’ve played well.”
The confidence spread as Trayce Jackson-Davis recorded his first double-double in nearly a month (last against Nebraska on January 18th), scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Race Thompson tied his career-high with 10 points and set a new personal best with four steals.
The two forwards, along with the entire frontcourt , had a colossal task against Hawkeyes’ star big man Luka Garza, who scored 38 points as he did his best to keep Iowa in the game. Ultimately it wasn’t anywhere near enough as the rest of the team shot just 12-of-30 (40%), including just 1-of-8 (12.5%) from behind the arc.
Indiana still needs to find a way to win a few of these next couple of games — which include road trips to Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan as well as a home game against Penn State — to help solidify its NCAA Tournament resume, but there’s no question that the path to the Big Dance is still very much there after beating Iowa and regaining the confidence needed to continue succeeding.