I'll admit, if there was any game the Indiana Hoosiers were going to drop this season, I thought it would be at Iowa. I didn't know how this Hoosiers team would respond to their first true road test of the season.
They put up a huge statement in the 69-65 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes this afternoon and showed the rest of the nation they're going to be a force to be reckoned with from here on out.
Iowa has always been a tough place for the Hoosiers to play.
They've lost seven of their last eight contests in Carver-Hawkeye Arena entering today, and with never playing in a hostile atmosphere this season, I thought that would have hurt them.
Indiana entered 12-1, and their lone loss was to a very good Butler Bulldogs team on December 15th in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs outrebounded, outshot and outhustled Indiana in that game. The Hoosiers showed they got too far in over their head with the No. 1 ranking and didn't respond well with the bullseye on their back.
Enter Iowa City ranked No. 5 and the clear favorite to win the Big 10.
Iowa was going to give Indiana their best shot, and that they did. The Hawkeyes were clearly overmatched, but just hung around all game and had a shot to win it in the final two minutes.
The Hoosiers showed great poise and fought off the Hawkeyes' furious attempt at an upset, pulling out the crucial victory to improve to 13-1 and 1-0 in conference play.
Every time Indiana would make a run and make it look like the game was over, Iowa would get some questionable calls on the offensive end as the refs would swallow their whistles on the other end.
Iowa shot 26 free throws to Indiana's 18.
I mention the refs because usually teams falter out on the road when the calls aren't going their way and get soft. This especially happens in a hostile environment in a first true road game when everyone outside of your bench is against you.
Indiana fought through and outrebounded Iowa 45-36 and outshot them 40 percent to 33 percent. The Hoosiers also did this with senior guard Jordan Hulls, who averages just over 11 points per game, going scoreless. He hit six threes on Friday night at home against Jacksonville, but saw nothing drop for him today. He went 0-for-10 from the field and went scoreless for just the fourth time in 122 career Indiana games.
The three Hoosiers who led this team to victory today were Cody Zeller (19 points), Victor Oladipo (14 points) and Will Sheehey off the bench (13 points).
That trio came up huge in the second half when it mattered and put this team on their backs.
In the first half, Christian Watford got the Hoosiers going by scoring the first five points of the game and finished with 11 points and a big eight rebounds. He was quiet on the scoreboard in the second half, but his ability to crash the boards and play good defense helped this team tremendously.
Also give a shoutout to freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who grew up big time today.
He is going to be one of the best point guards in the nation by year's end if he can continue playing at this level and improving each week. Ferrell finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. He looks Isiah Thomas-like and did a great job beating the press for the Hoosiers.
Indiana will face Penn State on the road next Monday night before they return home for their Big 10 home opener against Minnesota on Saturday, January 9th. They will go on to play four of their next five games at home starting with Minnesota and could really get a good jump on the road to a No. 1 seed.
There's no reason Indiana can't be 20-1 heading to their ESPN College Gameday matchup on Saturday, February 2nd against the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines.