After dropping their third conference game this season, Indiana needed a special kind of something from one of their two best players and get through a tricky game at home, before mentions of a crisis start flying around. Cody Zeller, knowing it was up to him to step up and deliver, did if with flying colors.
Zeller, probably the favorite in the preseason to win the player of the year award but no longer is, maybe not even on his own team, finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks as Indiana beat Iowa 73-60, although it wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest. Things didn’t go easily in the previous encounter between the two teams, at Iowa, which Indiana won 69-65.
And still, the Hoosiers simply had too much across the board, besides Zeller, as Kevin Ferrell stepped up to score 19 points while Christian Watford had a weak game with only 5. Victor Oladipo struggled with foul trouble for much of the second half, but still brought out another impressive stat line and some fantastic defense with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals.
The thing that kept us going was our defense. We kept getting stops on the defensive end. We struggled at times on offense, but when you’re getting stops, you’re OK.
Zeller knew what he was talking about – Indiana had an ugly shooting night, making only 38.9% of their field goal attempts and a terrible 14.3% from beyond the arc. Even when enjoying the departure of Iowa’s best player, Roy Devyn Marble, they couldn’t get away from the Hawkeyes, who played good enough defense to keep them in the game.
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. 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.
Tom Crean always finds a way to annoy other people, but in this instance he was right. Zeller simply fought his way to give Indiana the win, a much needed one after losing to Minnesota in the middle of the week. It will still probably cost them the number one ranking in the AP Poll, but the important thing is to keep the number one seed going into the tournament, and remaining the top team in the Big Ten until the end of the regular season.
Chances? Not bad. They have Ohio State at Assembly Hall coming up next, before a regular season ending game at Michigan. Unless they lose both games, which is unlikely, it’s hard to see anyone taking the conference crown away from the Hoosiers. The AP Poll? It’s not that important anyway.