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Saturday, January 29, 2005
 
Iowa 72, Indiana 57
Iowa returned home to a near capacity crowd after their heartbreaking loss to Northwestern. The support of the fans and the benching of most of the starters resulted in a defensive quality that was missing at the end of the previous game. For the second game in a row, Iowa went to the last TV timeout with a 12 point lead. Coach Alford made sure to remind his guys how that turned out last time, and they responded by adding three points to their margin in a win against Indiana on Saturday.

Alford benched Erek Hansen and captains Greg Brunner, Pierre Pierce, and Jeff Horner at tip-off in favor of Doug Thomas, Alex Thompson, Mike Henderson and Carlton Reed. Alford said the motivation for the decision was "not to punish" his starters, but to let them know there are "consequences" for poor play. Interpret that however you like, but the results speak for themselves, both in terms of shot selection and team defense. Iowa held the Hoosiers to an anemic 41.3 adjFG% and just 57 points in the 61 possession game, or a rate of 93.4 points per 100 possessions. Iowa was hot at the other end, shooting a blistering 66 adjFG%, thanks to increased involvement from Jeff Horner and plenty of shots close to the basket. Horner took nine shots and passed his way to nine assists.

Pierce was another key to Iowa's victory. He shut down Bracey Wright, who came in leading the conference in points per game. Much like Minnesota's Vincent Grier, Wright got into early foul trouble guarding Pierce, and played only 25 minutes after averaging 39.7 in his first 6 conference games. Even when he was in the game, Wright couldn't find a good shot, hitting only 4-12, with a handful of his 10 points coming on broken plays or after picking up a loose ball near the basket. Pierce also limited Wright to just 2 free throw attempts, which took away a major part of his scoring arsenal. Wright was one of the leaders in FTA/FGA among Big Ten guards.

Other Notes/Thoughts

As Bobby Hansen noted on the post-game radio show, good shooting can cover up your mistakes. There wasn't much talk of it after the game, but Iowa did have 15 turnovers on their 61 possessions, or about 25%. That's pretty high, but Iowa again benefitted from plenty of opponent turnovers, getting 16 in this game. Another shortcoming, in what has been a recurring theme, was allowing offensive rebounds to Indiana. The Hoosiers had 15 off rebounds to Iowa's 20 def rebounds, or an alarmingly high 43%. That should concern Alford as Iowa faces a great offensive rebounding team in Michigan State next week. Let's hope he addresses the problem (by playing Doug Thomas, heh).

Other than that, it was another solid win for Iowa. It was easy to get down on the team after the loss against Northwestern. But if you put things in perspective, as does Hawkeye Nation creator Jon Miller, Iowa is off to a 15-5 start, which is in line with some of the better seasons in recent memory. By the way, Jon writes excellent post-game recaps, which are always worth a read if they're not restricted for subscribers. Here's an example from Saturday.

Looking back, the Northwestern game doesn't bug me as much as it did immediately following the game. The home loss to Michigan bothers me more, as it was the only time this season that Iowa did a poor job of protecting the home court. The Hawkeyes now have a full week to prepare for a home battle with Michigan State, and I think they'll continue the recent trend of playing well in Carver-Hawkeye.



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