Iowa opens Big Ten play at home for the fourth straight season. Iowa has lost five straight league openers.
The Hawkeyes last opened Big Ten play against Indiana on Jan. 2, 2008 in Todd Lickliter’s Big Ten debut at Iowa. The Hoosiers won 79-76. Iowa’s last Big Ten opening win was Jan. 4, 2007 against Michigan State.
A few notes on today’s game:
Indiana ranks fifth by the Associated Press and Coaches’ polls. The Hoosiers average an NCAA-best 89.4 points per game and lead the nation in scoring differential (30.2), free throws made per game (20.9) and free throw attempts (27.6).
Cody Zeller leads the Hoosiers in scoring at 16.4 points a game, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten. Zeller leads the league in rebounding at 7.9 boards per contest.
Iowa ranks fourth nationally in free throws per game (18.8) and attempts (26.4).
The teams have two of the nation’s top distributing point guards in Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Iowa’s Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons ranks second nationally among freshmen in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.9. Ferrell, who had 10 assists and no turnovers against Jacksonville on Friday, sits at 2.6.
Shifting Jordan Hulls from the point and over to the off-guard has added another dimension to Indiana’s offense. Hulls averages 11.8 points per game, just a shade better than last year’s 11.7. But Hulls has been deadly from 3-point range, drilling 54.5 percent of his shots. He has knocked down 36 3-pointers, double Indiana’s runner-up (Christian Watford). Hulls is 36 of 66 from 3-point range this season.
Against Jacksonville, Hulls cored 20 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished two assists. He tied the Big Ten high with six 3-pointers.
“He’s a tremendous shooter and he’s always working,” Iowa freshman guard Mike Gesell said. “He’s a senior and just a leader out there and plays comfortable. We’ve got to get up in him and get him off rhythm.”
Hulls’ transition from the point to off-guard is similar to Gesell’s move from the point after seven games. Gesell averages 9.4 points a game and has hit 15 of 45 3-point attempts. Both still handle the point at times throughout the game.
“They’re very similar,” Iowa’s Devyn Marble said. “Two point guards that really like to score the basketball and shoot. I think that should be a good match-up, too. At the end of the day it’s a team match-up, and we’re going to try to get the win.”
Indiana Coach Tom Crean has never won at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, losing all four appearances. He’s impressed with the Hawkeyes so far.
“Iowa is playing as well as any team in the Big Ten right now,” Crean said. “One of the reasons is their efficiency on offense and defense where they have very few empty possessions which shows great leadership, maturity and talent.”
“Fran McCaffery has been one of the better coaches in the country for some time. He and his staff have put their stamp on the Iowa program as is evident by how hard they play and how physical they are.
“We’re getting ready to go into a tumultuous period, as is everybody else in this league. When you’ve got this many teams that are ranked, and then you’re getting ready to play a team like Iowa that is 11-2 and as good as they are. Some of these other teams that could be ranked that aren’t ranked right now for one reason or another…none of that make any difference…everybody is good. Iowa is very good and we’ve got a lot of things to be better at over the long haul, and we’ve also got things we’ve got to get better at in the short-term before we play that game. So, I’m not real good at the reflection part of it.”
The match-up features perhaps the league’s top transition offenses. Both teams like to run. That puts a premium on defense.
“We’ve got to bring our toughness,” Gesell said. “We know if we play our game we can beat anybody. We’ve got to bring the toughness, make sure we rebound, get back on defense, Indiana really likes to push the ball and make sure we get back and at the same time attack them. We want to push the ball, too.”
“They like to get up and down just like we do,” Marble said. “I think we’re the two best teams in the Big Ten at running. We like to score a lot of points that’s why they have a lot of guys in double figures. They share the really well. They like to get after you a little bit defensively, that’s what leads to turnovers and stuff like that. Sometimes you really have to be patient with them in the half court and make them grind it out and make them defend. But at the same time we want to push it ourselves. That’s what we do best.”
“Iowa is a another team that plays 94 feet of basketball,” said Indiana assistant Tim Buckley, a former assistant at Iowa. “We not only have to put an emphasis on scoring the ball but also getting stops and not letting them get out in their transition game.”
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