The Big Ten Conference is tough to figure out. We are constantly reminded of that, and Thursday night was no different.
On the same night that Penn St. picked up their second victory against Ohio St. this season, a feat that had not been accomplished since the Clinton Administration, the struggling Indiana Hoosiers knocked off the No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes 93-86. The victory was just Indiana's 16th of the season and sixth win in conference, while this knocked Iowa down to 19-9 and 8-7 in Big Ten play.
Inside the confines of Assembly Hall in Bloomington, defense was simply not a requirement. The type of scoring resembled an NBA final score, and perhaps that would be acceptable in the college game.
But, then you remember that games are only 40 minutes in the NCAA, and 48 in The Association.
Going into the night, Indiana was 35th in the nation in Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions, and Iowa was 65th, so while Iowa's defensive performance may not have surprised many eyes, Indiana's certainly raised a few eyebrows.
One Hoosier stood out amongst the pack on Thursday. That man was forward Will Sheehey. The senior went on a tear against the Hawkeyes, scoring a season-high 30 points while shooting a stellar 65.0 percent on 20 field goal attempts. The senior forward also added four rebounds and three assists to his line, putting together an outstanding performance in Assembly Hall.
The bench for Indiana featured two other scorers in double figures, with guards Stanford Robinson and Evan Gordon notching 17 and 12 points respectively. Both players were especially stellar from the free throw line, combining for a free throw percentage of 77.7 percent on 18 attempts. On the whole, Indiana shot very well at home, going 27-of-38 from the line.
Iowa had three starters in double figures but the story of the game was from the perimeter. The Hawkeyes shot just 21.1 percent on 19 three-point field goal attempts on Thursday, plaguing them from the field. This truly spoiled a huge night for Melsahn Basabe, Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble, who combined for 53 of Iowa's 86 points.
Another story was the lack of composure for both teams in the turnover department. The teams combined for 35 turnovers on the night, with Iowa leading with 18 in that department. That mark will not bat many eyebrows in Bloomington, with the Hoosiers being the worst in the Big Ten Conference in Turnover%. For Iowa, meanwhile, this was an ugly performance for a team that is tied for fifth with Michigan St. in Turnover% at 16.4 percent.
Iowa cannot be satisfied with the recent turn of events. Remember: this was a team that prior to conference play was 12-2 and looking like a serious threat in the Big Ten Conference. But ever since the loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Hawkeyes have gone on a tailspin. They may have avenged that defeat recently, but Fran McCaffery's club is 4-5 since losing at the Crisler Center on Jan. 22. Unless they go further into this tailspin, their NCAA Tournament chances should not be in doubt. But preferable seeding in the Big Dance is all but gone.
Indiana meanwhile has had nothing to play for this season. Barring a humongous run in what should prove to be a wild and ridiculous Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers will not be getting their dancing shoes fit this coming postseason. This season has been the polar opposite of last year's, and the Hoosier faithful are certainly unhappy. For the moment, however, this win stands as nothing more than a savory moment in a disappointing season. But as we have seen in college hoops over the years, just about anything is possible. And nothing should ever be ruled out.