BLOOMINGTON — Iowa looks to bounce back from a 1-point loss to Maryland while Indiana looks to bounce back from a disastrous six weeks tonight.
The 21st-ranked Hawkeyes (20-6, 9-6) host the Hoosiers (13-13, 4-11) at 9 p.m. (FS1) in Iowa City. Iowa started IU's current four-game losing streak, which continued with a 48-46 home loss to 15th-ranked Purdue.
On Feb. 7 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the Hawkeyes drained big shots down the stretch to squash a late Hoosiers' rally in a 77-72 win.
Rally is the key word as Indiana — as it has been prone to do this season — put itself into a double-digit halftime deficit in the first matchup.
"They made some tremendous opportune baskets at times that were deflating in the game — under five seconds on the shot clock, under two on the shot clock. They really came up big making some shots," said IU coach Archie Miller, whose team has lost 10 of its last 11 games. "We didn't take care of the ball as well as we needed to and it changed the course of that game at the end of the first half. So they played with a lead and we were able to get it within one possession, but they made some really key plays down the stretch."
Iowa's superior size, led by leading scorer and 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior forward Tyler Cook, was a big factor in the Hawkeyes' success in the previous meeting.
IU frontcourt size issues are dissipating with the recent resurgence of 6-10 junior forward De'Ron Davis. Davis has started the past two games, making 7 of 12 shots from the field and averaging nine points and five rebounds per game. He had a surge of six points in the second half against Purdue to help the Hoosiers take a 40-37 lead with four minutes, 39 seconds to go.
Indiana's offensive woes result from a lack of consistency from throughout the roster. Freshman guard Romeo Langford has been in double figures in all but two games this season. His 22 points in the first meeting against Iowa were his highest point total since getting 28 on Jan. 11 at Maryland.
However the Hoosiers' other guards — sophomore Al Durham, freshman Rob Phinisee and junior Devonte Green — have offered inconsistent offensive production.
"We're really trying to get those guys to be aggressive right now," Miller said. "Those guys know right now we need those guys to be aggressive. They have to have an aggressive mentality, and they have to be willing to try to make plays for us. I think we had some opportunities in the game against Purdue where our guards were going to have to make some plays."
IU was effective at the defensive end against the Boilermakers, but the Hoosiers simply need more offensively.
"I feel like we've just got to keep locked in on defense," Durham said. "We had a great defensive mindset against Purdue last game, and I feel like if we keep doing that and keep going forward [so] that we can be successful in some of these games."
Miller also continued to discuss an improved disposition and better communication on the floor from his IU squad.
"That effort level right there is something hopefully you can build on and hang your hat on and say, 'Look, at the end of the day, make shots, don't make shots, good play, bad play, continue with the disposition that you're in a competitive mind state.' The whole team, everyone that's in there, and everyone that's on the bench, everyone who's working in practice. That's what we have to hold ourselves accountable to to find a way to crawl to the top and get a win," Miller said. "Communication is a big part. This team has got a quiet personality naturally. You've got some reserved guys. But you've got to be in-between the lines, and especially while you're working, you've got to be able to communicate with one another."
Miller is looking to see growth as the season begins to wind down. The Hoosiers will host 22nd-ranked Wisconsin on Tuesday night and 10th-raked Michigan State on March 2.
"Upperclassmen, we don't have a ton. We do have a lot of younger guys that are getting experienced to the hard realities of college basketball for the first time," Miller said. "You know, it's hard, it's difficult, and to do that, at times you kind of want to go away. I think that's what our team has to break through with is more not going away from one another, more of going with one another, communicating better, pressuring each other in practice and doing more in terms of understanding like to get the results that we want to get. We're going to have to do it together. It's not going to be, 'Hey, I'll go to practice today and see how it goes.' It's got to be a real approach and a disposition, like I said, to do this thing better than we've been doing it, and I think definitely communication — young guys in particular learning how to talk is always a huge thing, and your experienced guys being able to express themselves, as well."