IOWA CITY, Iowa — A big game. A big second half. A big win. Iowa got all three on Tuesday night.
The Hawkeyes picked up their fourth victory over a ranked opponent this season and remained undefeated inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena when they knocked off 13th-ranked Indiana, 73-60, before 11,825 raucous fans on “Gold Rush” night.
Iowa, which improved to 15-5 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten Conference, moved into a tie with the Hoosiers (12-4, 4-2) and No. 16 Ohio State for second place in the league standings, a half-game behind Wisconsin. And the Hawkeyes will have their shot at the Buckeyes on Saturday night.
“This was a big game in a lot of ways,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “If we can get five wins against top 25 teams, that’s pretty special. You can’t take that away, and it bodes well when we look at the post season.”
In a reversal of fortune from Saturday, when No. 11 Michigan State started the second half with a 12-2 run over the Hawkeyes, Iowa scored 14 unanswered points in the first 4 minutes 22 seconds of the last period to solidify a lead it held the entire game.
“We’ve really been emphasizing that during practices, coming out strong,” said guard Adam Haluska, who scored a team-high 20 points for the Hawkeyes. “We hoped to put them away but they kept coming back. I thought we did a good job of everyone stepping up when we needed to, hitting free throws and getting key rebounds.”
Despite getting out to a 44-27 lead following the run, hot perimeter shooting kept the Hoosiers in the game, getting within single digits five more times in the half.
Robert Vaden, who hit a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored a game-high 26 points, got Indiana within seven points with 1:30 left on the clock. Roderick Wilmont also nailed a trey to narrow the Hawkeye lead to eight with 1:05 remaining.
Iowa responded by hitting 9 of 10 free throws in the final minute and a half and frustrated Indiana’s attempts at a last-minute comeback on the defensive end.
“I thought Steve had his team really prepared tonight,” Indiana coach Mike Davis said. “They executed much better than we did. They blocked us out and beat us to the loose balls.”
Iowa had difficulties adjusting to the full-court press the Hoosiers launched after the run, but it still controlled the game at the charity stripe.
“I thought our seniors just did a nice job getting us to settling down,” Alford said. “You’ve got to make free throws and to their credit they made free throws.”
Defensively, center Erek Hansen shut down Indiana forward Marco Killingsworth, the league’s second-best scorer, and held him to half of his 20-point-per-game average.
“Killingsworth is a helluva player,” the 6-foot-11 Hansen said. “He’s a lot stronger than me and bigger than me. I think I was just able to use my feet to keep him out of the paint and that was a big key of the game.”
Guards trapped Killingsworth and made him easy prey for Hansen’s long, gangly arms.
“One of the big keys on defense was making sure (the guards) came down and trapped every time,” Hansen, who had six blocks, said. “We had a certain person picked out to do that, and we had a guard right there on his shoulder. It really frustrated him.”
Killingsworth had 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting and grabbed six boards.
“I thought (Hansen) really made Killingsworth get frustrated, and that’s a hard thing to do because he’s a tremendous player,” Alford said. “(Hansen’s) a senior, and he’s playing with great urgency. He’s playing with great confidence.”
Alford said the Hawkeyes needed a win Tuesday after the 85-55 rout in East Lansing last week. Iowa will face three ranked opponents in a row, closing with Ohio State on Saturday night.
“That’s what I appreciate the most about our guys,” the coach said. “They’ve really got great resiliency and resolve about them. They know how to respond after a tough setback.”
The Hawkeyes had four players in double-digit scoring. Greg Brunner followed Haluska with 17 points, going 8 of 11 from the floor. Jeff Horner had 13 and Hansen added 11.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com