IOWA CITY — There was no wading into the Big Ten for Iowa freshman Adam Woodbury.
The guy in the red jersey opposite him Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was Indiana all-American Cody Zeller, perhaps the top player in the country. Zeller also teams with a cast that makes up the No. 5 team in the country, formerly No. 1.
That first step was going to be a doozy for Woodbury, a 7-1 center from Sioux City.
“I played him straight up and tried to be physical with him and tried to make him work for all of his points,” Woodbury said. “I hope I made it a little tougher on him to score.”
Woodbury did for a half, anyway, but two fouls in less than a minute at the beginning of the second half opened the door for Zeller, whose parents are from Springville and who had more than 100 relatives in Carver on Monday.
With Woodbury out and Iowa trying to hold it together with sophomore Gabe Olesani and senior Zach McCabe, Zeller took over and scored eight of his game-high 19 points in a burst to help the Hoosiers (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) sustain a 69-65 victory over the Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-1).
“I thought defensively he was tremendous, especially early,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He moved his feet. He held his ground. He wasn’t chomping. He wasn’t flying at shot fakes. And I thought battled him physically in a big way. It enabled us to kind of get our break going a couple times.
“We didn’t convert early like I had hoped, but we had some opportunities.”
That about covered it for Woodbury’s offense, which was tentative. He hit just 2 of 7 from the field and finished with four points and eight rebounds. Zeller also tied for the game-high with 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
“The shots that I missed are on me, I live up to all of those,” said Woodbury, who averages 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. “I rushed a few of them that I should’ve taken more time on. I’m going to get in the gym and work on it. This can only help me in the long run, getting my feet wet in Big Ten play against a good team.”
What sets Zeller apart from a lot of 7-footers is the way he moves. When Woodbury left the game, Zeller made a gorgeous running layup around Olesani that maybe only three other centers in the country can even try, giving Indiana a 44-34 lead with 16:07 left in the game.
Woodbury had his attention, for a while at least.
“I remember my first Big Ten game and it was a little rough, but he made some nice plays,” Zeller said. “He’s a big body and he rebounded well. He has a bright future.”
It would’ve been more interesting if Woodbury made it to the end of the game. His second foul came with 18:29 left and then No. 3 was with 17:44. He sat out until around the 10-minute mark and then missed a layup and picked up No. 4 at 7:45 before eventually fouling out for the first time in his 14-game career at Iowa.
“Cody wasn’t scoring over him, he was having trouble with Woody’s size and length,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “For his first experience in the Big Ten against someone everyone is calling the best post player in the country, you’ve got to be proud of him. He showed he can do it. The next step is not bringing your arms down and fouling him and avoiding those little cheap fouls.”
The bad guy
Iowa fans don’t like Indiana forward Will Sheehey.
It might go back to the dunk he put on Melsahn Basabe two years ago at Indiana, but the junior got the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd’s attention Monday night with some clutch jumpers, gritty defense and just that overall pain-in-the-butt hustle.
He earned “something, something Sheehey” chants from the crowd, something he doesn’t mind and something he said he’s heard before.
“If that’s something they want to do, whatever,” said Sheehey, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Asked if he relished that role, Sheehey broke out in a grin.
“I like to be the most hated player on our team,” he said. “Sure, I’ll take that.”
Carver alive and kicking
Monday’s crowd of 15,400 was Iowa’s first sellout of the season and the fourth in McCaffery’s three seasons as Iowa’s coach.
The crowd arrived early, stayed to the end and rocked the place like it hasn’t been rocked in quite some time.
The players certainly noticed and appreciated.
“It was one of the best crowds I’ve seen since I’ve been here, very loud,” White said. “I hope they continue to do that and I know they will. I think we’ve shown that we’re deserving of a good home crowd because we can play with any of these teams and they make a big impact on the game. We feed on their energy and it helps both offensively and defensively for our team.”
Junior forward Melsahn Basabe sat out the second half after injuring his right ankle in the first. He ended up playing just nine minutes and scoring two points with one rebound.
Basabe injured his left ankle a couple of different times this season. It was bad enough where he sat out the second half of the Coppin State game nine days ago.
“He was playing well, I thought,” McCaffery said. “And I thought in this game, he would have been very effective. He’s always played well against Indiana and played really well last year and he was ready to go. So, that was disappointing.”
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