Friends, I don't think Iowa should play any more mid-week games in the state of Indiana. The state of Indiana is a bad place, full of bad people, and bad things happen there. If the cold, mechanical logic of the Delanybot* 9000 decrees that Iowa must play a mid-week road game against Indiana or Purdue next season, I vote that we just pre-emptively forfeit the game. Just save us the misery of watching Iowa get brained for two hours by a bunch of Hoosier state hooligans, please.
*Yes, Jim Delany is retired now. But his legacy will live on forever in the heartless machine wisdom of the Delanybot 9000 scheduler.
A week after Iowa traveled to West Lafayette and got incinerated for 40 minutes by Purdue, Iowa traveled back to the same very dumb and very bad state and... lost 89-77 to an Indiana team on a 4-game losing streak. I can't decide if that final score flatters Iowa or not. Despite another abysmal first half (NOT-VERY-FUN FACT: Iowa has allowed 110 points combined in the first halves of their last two road games -- that seems bad.) that left them looking up at a 15-point deficit for the final 20 minutes, Iowa mounted a better... comeback-type substance? It's hard to call it a "comeback" when Iowa was never able to cut the lead to single digits, but they got it down to 10 on multiple occasions and didn't get completely blown off the court in the second half. Which is better than the alternative, right? Maybe? Probably?
This game checked a lot of boxes for an Iowa road game debacle.
- Did Indiana make a season-high in three-pointers (11)? Friends, you know it.
- Did Indiana make a three-pointer with time expiring in the first half? Of course.
- Did the Hoosiers have a bench player go HAM? Devonte Graham had 27 points off the bench, which was a) a season-high in Big Ten play and b) the second-most points of his career (behind 30 against Florida State earlier this season). Graham was 7/11 from 3-point range, including 5/8 in the first half.
- Did the Hoosiers average over 1.00 PPP? Most definitely -- they went off for 1.16 PPP here.
- Did Indiana whoop Iowa in points off turnovers and fast break points? Yes (25-18) and yes (22-7).
And so on. In some ways, this game could have been worse -- despite a 16-7 edge on the offensive glass, Iowa actually outscored Indiana in second chance points (8-6). Indiana also shot just 22/32 at the free throw line (68.8%).
In another way, though, this game was worse because Iowa didn't just lose to Indiana they also sustained another potentially critical injury. CJ Fredrick suffered a pretty painful-looking ankle injury near the end of the first half (he was unable to put any weight on his leg and had to be helped off the court) and did not return to the game. There was no indication yet about how long Fredrick might be out, but it certainly seems likely that he would miss some time -- at the very least, it's hard to imagine him being ready to go by the Minnesota game on Sunday.
Fredrick's loss has the potential to be more damaging to Iowa's hopes for the rest of the season than the loss of this particular game. Without him Iowa is down their third-leading scorer (11.5 ppg), the Big Ten's leading 3-point shooter (47.2%), and a key source of spacing and ball movement for their offense. His absence -- for any length of time -- will likely allow defenses to key on Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp even more and make it harder for Iowa's two best scoring options to operate.
That said, the absence of Fredrick actually didn't negatively impact Garza and Wieskamp too much in the second half of this game. Garza had 17 points on 6/8 shooting (2/3 3FG) in the second half, while Wieskamp had 13 points on 4/7 shooting. They were effective on offense -- and pretty efficient, too. Still, if Fredrick is out for any appreciable length of time, it's going to increase the pressure on Garza and Wieskamp considerably.
Somehow that 17-point half was actually Garza's lesser half of the game. He had 21 points (on 8/14 shooting) in the first half, which meant that it took him less than 20 minutes to extend his streak of 20+ point performances to 10 Big Ten games in a row. He finished with 38 points on 14/22 shooting (3/6 from 3-point range) from the field and 7/8 shooting at the free throw line; he also had 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Peacock remains an absolute goddamn superhero, night in and night out, and we shouldn't ever lose sight of just how special his play has been (and continues to be) this season. We are witnessing greatness on a regular basis and that is certainly worth celebrating and appreciating.
Joe Wieskamp was the only other Iowa starter in double figures; he finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds on 5/11 shooting. He was largely buttoned up in the first half (3 points on 1/4 shooting) behind some stout IU defense, but he found ways to get more involved in the offense in the second half. Iowa's remaining three starters combined for just seven points (though that stat is probably a little unfair since Fredrick had to sit the final 25 minutes of the game); Bakari Evelyn ended up as Iowa's third-leading scorer with 9 points on 3/5 shooting.
Iowa entered the game down one regular bench player with Cordell Pemsl suspended; unfortunately, they exit it down one key starter and their third-best player for an indeterminate amount of time. Pemsl's absence led to extended minutes for Riley Till; he finished with two rebounds and four fouls in 10 minutes. A Fredrick absence would likely mean more minutes for Evelyn -- and maybe increased run for Austin Ash? He did play five minutes in this game (all in the first half as Joe Toussaint and Connor McCaffery dealt with foul trouble).
We hope like hell Fredrick is able to make a speedy recovery because an extended absence could be a crushing blow for this Iowa team. Iowa's roster was already practically down to the bone after the season-ending injuries to Jordan Bohannon and Jack Nunge and Patrick McCaffery's ongoing absence; taking Fredrick out of the equation could be too much to withstand.
But Fredrick or not, this was another road game where Iowa's defense was decimated. The only Big Ten road games where Iowa hasn't allowed at least 80 points were against Northwestern and Nebraska -- aka, the two worst teams in the league. What's more alarming is that Indiana is not one of the league's better offenses. Even after their showing tonight, they rank just 12th in conference games in offensive efficiency, 10th in eFG%, 10th in 2FG%, and 8th in 3FG%. But Iowa's road defense has been good for what ails a lot of Big Ten teams at home this year and that held true tonight as well. Iowa's defense on the road forces their offense to need to be almost superhuman to compensate; to no one's surprise, they haven't been able to meet that standard. Iowa's offense could play better in these games, sure, but if the only way for Iowa to beat a decent (or better) Big Ten team on the road is for the offense to be nigh-perfect... well, we probably shouldn't expect Iowa to add to its Big Ten road win collection.
NEXT: Another road game (gulp), this time at Minnesota on Sunday, February 16th at 12 PM CT (FS1).