First place in the Big Ten no longer belongs solely to the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Indiana made sure of that on Thursday by joining second-ranked Maryland as the only teams to defeat Iowa in conference play this season.
The Hoosiers overcame a cold shooting performance by star point guard Yogi Ferrell to defeat No. 4 Iowa 85-78 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.
Indiana led by 16 points in the first half and then trailed by four points in the second half before rallying down the stretch.
Iowa self-destructed at the free throw line throughout the game, making just 13-of-23 attempts.
“It’s tough to go on the road and miss ten free throws,” Iowa senior guard Mike Gesell said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “That’s the difference in the ball game right there.
“We knock those down and I think we win this one.”
Iowa fell into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten standings with Indiana and Maryland with each team having a 10-2 record. The Hawkeyes will look to get back on track against last-place Minnesota on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Indiana only led 45-38 at halftime despite making seven 3-point baskets in the first 20 minutes and despite grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. The Hoosiers had more offensive rebounds in the first half than Iowa had overall, and yet the margin still was just seven points.
Iowa seized the momentum and took the lead at 47-45 by scoring the first nine points in the second half.
The Hoosiers then outscored Iowa 25-15 over the next 10 minutes and led 70-62 when Ferrell made a 3-point basket with 6 minutes, 22 seconds left to play.
Iowa trimmed the lead to 70-66, but the Hoosiers answered by making five of six free throws during a 34-second span, expanding the lead to 75-66.
Iowa pulled to within three points at 79-76 when Gesell made two free throws with 22.5 seconds left to play.
But Indiana outscored Iowa 6-2 in the final seconds to secure the victory.
“There is a lot of things we can take from this one, I think particularly the way we started the game,” said Gesell, who on Thursday become the 45th player in school history to score at least 1,000 career points. “This place was rocking. We knew how it was going to be. We had played here before. We had won here before.
“And we didn’t come out ready to play like we should have. It’s tough when you dig yourself that big of a hole in the beginning. And just getting on the glass; there are a lot of teaching points from this game. We’re going to bounce back and we’re going to learn from it.”
Iowa had a balanced attack with all five starters scoring in double figures, led by senior forward Jarrod Uthoff with 24 points.
Iowa’s bench, on the other hand, was held scoreless.
Combine that with all the missed free throws and Indiana’s work on the boards and the circumstances were too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome.
“We gave up two buckets with one second on the shot clock, we missed ten free throws and we did not execute some of our action late, and that’s disappointing,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “So that’s what we have to work on. That’s my fault. That’s our fault.
“We’ll all accept responsibility and we’ll learn from that. And we’ll do better on Sunday.”
Iowa senior center Adam Woodbury continued his solid play with yet another double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds, including nine offensive rebounds. The 7-foot-1 Woodbury has five double-doubles in scoring and rebounding in the last eight games.
“He was spectacular tonight,” McCaffery said. “I just love the guy. You have to be so proud of him. You can just see it in his confidence. It’s just changing every game.”
Indiana hung on to win on a night when Ferrell only made 2-of-12 field-goal attempts. Ferrell missed as many shots as Iowa missed free throws.
McCaffery was asked after Thursday’s game what could be done to avoid another poor performance at the free throw line.
“The first thing is to shoot more,” McCaffery said. “And then the other thing you can do is make it competitive, try to put some pressure on the guys.
“Other than that, unless you want to do shot reconstruction, which is not necessary. We’ve got good foul shooters. That’s about all you can do.”