Editor’s Note: The following was written by Sean Neugent, the latest addition to the student staff at the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and a contributing writer to hawkeyesports.com.
IOWA CITY — Hit clutch free throws. Dominate the boards.
Make no mistake. College basketball teams that routinely do the aforementioned win a lot of games. And, that’s exactly what the University of Iowa men’s basketball team did on Saturday against the nationally ranked Indiana Hoosiers inside a sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes hit clutch free throws – 32 of 37 including a bunch in the final two minutes of play.
The Hawkeyes dominated the boards – Iowa finished the afternoon with a 42-25 edge including a 15-6 margin on the offensive end.
Toss in a career-high 33 points by senior guard Adam Haluska – a total that included five buckets from behind the arc and 10-of-11 shooting from the charity stripe – and 18 points from freshman forward Tyler Smith, and it adds up to an 81-75 victory for the Coach Steve Alford’s squad, which finds itself sitting in fourth place in the Big Ten Conference with a 5-4 record.
Haluska was everything his head coach wants him to be and more on this day. Great offense. Great defense. Great on-the-court leadership.
“It was one of those days where our shots just went down,” said the sharp-shooter from Carroll, Iowa. “I was in a good position to shoot. The coaches give me the green light to shoot and my team does a great job of getting me into good position.
“When they are going down like they were today you want the ball in your hands,” he added with a smile – the kind of smile that comes at the end of a week that saw the Hawkeyes register their first road win of the season, the come-from-behind effort Wednesday at Michigan and their first victory over a nationally ranked opponent of the year in Saturday’s win over the high-flying Hoosiers.
Smith was almost as impressive as his teammate. He had nine rebounds, seven assists and 10 free throws against IU. “I had confidence going into the free throws. I feel if I take my time they’ll go in,” he said.
Iowa is quickly developing into a monster on the backboards. The Hawkeyes have outrebounded their last three opponents – No. 2 Wisconsin, Michigan, and No. 25 Indiana – 122-89. Kurt Looby and Seth Gorney – the Hawkeyes’ two-headed monster in the post – each grabbed six rebounds against the Hoosiers.
“Our team’s toughness has gotten a little better, but it’s not there yet,” said Alford. “We’re nibbling at it; we aren’t biting at it. But were nibbling. We just have to keep doing that.”
“Iowa did a great job on the boards today, those kids really competed. It comes down to competing on the boards; Iowa beat us on the boards. The team that is more aggressive in that area usually wins the game,” said Hoosier Coach Kelvin Sampson.
The game was intense from the start and physical. A total of 56 fouls were called. Three Hoosiers and a pair of Hawkeyes finished their games early. Both coaches appeared frustrated with the number of whistles.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish the game.” Sampson said, noting that his squad was called for 29 miscues. IU’s D.J. White, who entered the game averaging 14 points, scored just six after falling victim to foul trouble and Iowa’s double-teaming early in the contest.
Guard Roderick Wilmont paced Indiana with 24 points including a 6-12 performance on three pointers.
“I’m very proud of this team. This was a very difficult and demanding week, playing three Big Ten teams in a span of seven days is hard,” said Alford, whose team improved to 13-10 overall with the victory.
“Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. That’s quite a trifecta. It doesn’t get much more difficult than that.”
The loss Indiana drops to 6-3 in conference play and 16-6 overall. Iowa hits the road for games at Minnesota on Wednesady and Wisconsin next Saturday.