Hoosiers ride strong defense to win
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)
Cody Zeller was not going to get pushed around on his home court, so he helped No. 1 Indiana fight back Saturday night.
Wearing blood-spotted shorts, courtesy of a second-half cut to the chin, the 7-foot sophomore kept going to the basket and drawing fouls.
Zeller had 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, leading the Hoosiers past Iowa 73-60 to keep them atop the Big Ten standings.
"I've watched a lot of games this year, and I'm telling you that nobody has the physicality used against him like Cody does," coach Tom Crean said. "And you never see him change his expression. We had to take him out of the game when the bleeding wouldn't stop and he didn't change."
The Hoosiers needed all the muscle Zeller could provide on this rugged end to a tough week.
On Tuesday, Minnesota dominated Indiana inside and pulled an upset that will likely cost Indiana the No. 1 spot in next week's poll. No. 2 Gonzaga won twice this week.
On Saturday, the Hoosiers (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten) needed an even grittier performance when their shooters had a poor night.
Indiana shot just 38.9 percent from the field and didn't make a 3-pointer until the final minute.
So Zeller took matters into his own hands by continually going the ball to the basket.
The tactic did come with a price.
Zeller was knocked to the ground a couple of times in the opening minutes when he missed four shots in the lane and he went sprawling across the court twice in the first half when he dived at steals.
And with 8:48 left in the game, as Christian Watford walked to the free-throw line, the officials escorted Zeller to the bench because of the blood.
First, he tried to hide it. Then he tried to stop it with a towel before taking a seat at the end of the bench. Twenty-seven seconds later, the trainers patched up the bloody chin and Zeller went back into the game where he continued to play the leading role.
Zeller didn't even give it a second thought. He drew another foul, made two free throws, scored on a dunk all while crediting his teammates for the job they did to give Indiana the lead.
"The thing that kept us going was our defense," Zeller said. "We kept getting stops on the defensive end. We struggled at times on offense, but when you're getting stops, you're OK."
Freshman Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell finished with a season-high 19 points and five assists for Indiana. Victor Oladipo had 10 points, eight rebounds and four steals despite playing much of the second half in foul trouble.
It was enough to earn a 25th regular season win and keep the Hoosiers 1½ games ahead of No. 9 Michigan State and No. 17 Wisconsin as the regular season conference chase heads into the final week. The Spartans and Badgers both play Sunday.
For the Hawkeyes (18-11, 7-9), it was a tough night, too. Coach Fran McCaffery drew a technical foul in the first half and the Hawkeyes sent Indiana to the free-throw line 42 times.
The Hawkeyes played defense, shut down Indiana's outside shooters and played well enough in the second half to give Indiana a late scare.
But Iowa couldn't overcome a dismal first half in which it committed 14 turnovers and scored just 14 points — its lowest point total in a half all season — and that was too big of a hole to dig out of.
"If I said to you, we come on the road, we're going to turn it over 14 times, get outrebounded and score 14 points in the first half, you'd think it was going to be a blowout," McCaffery said. "We were right there. So that shows you what this team is capable of."
Roy Devyn Marble scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the Hawkeyes. Aaron White had 14 points and seven rebounds and Eric May added 12 points and seven rebounds on a night, the Hawkeyes were just 1 of 13 on 3s.
It was that kind of ugly night all the way around.
Over the first 20 minutes, Zeller and Oladipo for Indiana and Iowa's Melsahn Basabe of Iowa were the only players with more than one basket. Basabe and Zeller each had three baskets, Oladipo had two.
All Indiana needed to take control was an early 10-2 spurt and a 6-0 run to close the half. That gave the Hoosiers a 26-14 halftime lead. Iowa cut the deficit to eight early in the second half. That's when things got rough.
Marble hopped straight to the Iowa locker room after appearing to hurt his ankle. He returned a few minutes later. Zeller got the cut a few minutes after that and May came up grimacing after Zeller was called for a foul in the final minutes. He never came out.
The Hoosiers used a 9-4 run to make it 43-27, extended the lead to 18, and didn't allow the Hawkeyes to get closer than 10 on a night that the outcome seemed easier than the score.
"They're a tough team," Zeller said. "They're going to fight you to the end."