BLOOMINGTON – It wasn't pretty but it was a win for Indiana.
The No. 1 Hoosiers didn't play their smoothest offensive game, but they did more than enough to defeat Iowa 73-60 Saturday night in front of 17,472 fans in Assembly Hall.
"If you are going to have the best league in the country, like we have and it's been that way for the entire year, then certain teams should get a little bit of an exclusion from the bubble, and I think Iowa is one of them," said Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team bounced back from Tuesday's 77-73 loss at Minnesota. "Nobody wants to see them in the NCAA tournament. They are really good."
It wasn't always good basketball Saturday.
Both teams struggled on offense with Indiana going 21 for 54 from the floor, 38.9 percent, and Iowa shooting 21 of 55, 38.2 percent. Points were so hard to come by, that both teams set season lows for scoring in a half after the first 20 minutes with Indiana holding a 26-14 lead.
Indiana did have some things go right for it. The Hoosiers (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten) forced the Hawkeyes (18-11, 7-9) into 19 turnovers and turned those into 19 points.
IU also was strong inside, scoring 36 points in the paint and 16 second-chance points.
Crean focused on the defense that kept the Hoosiers going when the offense wasn't there.
"They understand that you can't win without it," Crean said. "We went through the offseason of being able to show if we got three more stops in certain games what it would have meant seeding-wise for us (in the NCAA tournament). We would have either been the first of the second seeds, or who knows, maybe slid in even higher.
"These guys really understand that the biggest thing is we can't win without (defense), but it leads to more opportunities offensively. When you are creating turnovers, when you are getting defensive rebounds, when you are getting those stops put together, you are getting easier baskets."
Cody Zeller finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds against Iowa for his 13th career double-double.
But the 7-footer's night didn't start out like he was going to have such a productive game.
Zeller missed his first four shots inside, finally scoring with a dunk 4 ½ minutes into the game. He also started the game by struggling at the free-throw line, going 3 of 6 in the first half.
But Zeller turned in the performance IU needed, finishing with 7 baskets on 13 shots, sinking 8 of 13 free throws and he divided his rebounds evenly with five on offense and five on defense.
"He's a unique player," Crean said. "We better all appreciated him while he is here. Because whenever he goes, he's going to be successful."
One of Zeller's more impressive plays Saturday night came with 7:55 to play in the first half.
Zeller dove to poke the ball away from an Iowa player, got up off the floor, sprinted down on offense and received a behind-the-back pass from Will Sheehey that he dunked to give the Hoosiers a 17-8 lead.
"We used to always do that drill in high school where you would tip from behind," Zeller said. "I haven't used it much, but it's a tribute to (Washington coach Gene) Miiller, my high school coach. Will, you know Will, getting fancy with it. It was just a fun play I guess."
Freshman's big night
Indiana freshman Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell scored a career-high 19 points in Saturday's win over Iowa.
But Ferrell's contributions didn't stop there.
The point guard also had five assists, a steal and fourth career block in 30 minutes of play.
"When we had to take him out, our offense got a little stagnant tonight, and it didn't move as well," Crean said. "He's really grown as a player. … There is no question he is capable of that (scoring 19). It was tremendous seeing him do that. I think the one thing that doesn't show on the stats sheet as much is just how well he played defensively. We ask him to do a lot. He's guarding a future pro guard out there in (Iowa's Roy) Devyn Marble and giving up a lot of height (Ferrell is 6-foot and Marble is 6-6). We just kept making adjustments with it."
- Indiana recorded 11 steals against Iowa. It was the eighth time the Hoosiers had 10 or more steals this season.
- The Hoosiers' 42 free-throw attempts against the Hawkeyes were the second most they have attempted this season. IU shot 44 free throws in a 99-45 win over Sam Houston State on Nov. 15.
- Indiana forced 19 turnovers against Iowa, marking the third time in Big Ten play this season it has forced that many turnovers. The Hoosiers also caused Penn State and Michigan State to commit 19 turnovers
- Victor Oladipo had 10 points, eight rebounds, four steals and one block in 22 minutes as he finished with four fouls
- This year's team became the sixth in Indiana history to record 25 victories, joining the 1974-75, 75-76, 88-89, 90-91 and 92-93 squads.
- Indiana and Iowa combined for 52 fouls. The Hoosiers, who were called for 25 fouls, went 29 for 42 at the line, and the Hawkeyes, who were called for 27 fouls, went 17 for 24 at the line.
- Iowa top scorers: Roy Devyn Marble 20 points, Aaron White 14, Eric May 12
"There were too many turnovers in the first half. The second half was pretty good. We were giving offensive rebounds up to guys we should not have given them up to. To me, the disappointing thing was that we had a chance to get it to five before the half and we missed consecutive free throws. If we were down under 10 at the half, it would have been a different game. We were not in sync offensively, but at the same time, I'm really proud of our fight. When we made our run, they made runs as well, which is what you would expect a really good team to do. They have enough weapons, enough experience and enough poise that they are going to be hard to catch."
- Iowa coach Fran McCaffery