BLOOMINGTON – In the first half tonight, Indiana had a player on the court that has not made an appearance since the Hoosiers' win over Florida State in early November: the star version of Devonte Green. With his older brother – and Los Angeles Lakers guard – Danny Green in attendance, the senior captain checked in with 15:53 remaining in opening half. Over the next 3:38, Green drained all four of 3-point attempts, part of a ridiculous stretch of seven straight made field goals for the Hoosiers. All four of Green's attempts from downtown were contested in some way, but none of the shots so much as touched the rim and by the time the dust settled, Indiana had overcome a sluggish start to push in front 25-16. For good measure during that run, Green tossed an outstanding outlet pass ahead to Trayce Jackson-Davis for a big dunk as the crowd roared. At halftime, the senior has 18 points on 5 for 11 from the field.
Green's explosion was part of a good offensive start for the Hoosiers, who hit 59% of their shots in the game's first 10 minutes. After a couple of ugly early possessions, in which Iowa's Luka Garza's completely precluded Joey Brunk from getting the ball down low, Race Thompson took Brunk's place in the lineup and that smaller, quicker version of the Hoosiers began to impose its will. Jerome Hunter drained a 3 from about 25 feet and Thompson went strong to the basket more than once. I continue to be impressed with the energy the redshirt sophomore brings to the table on offense and on defense, where he battled Garza, one of the Big Ten's best players, and held his own.
Part of Indiana's secret in the first half was an ability to get out in transition. Its perimeter defense was good and whenever it grabbed a defensive rebound, it immediately tried to push the ball up the court. The Hawkeyes were a little loose with the ball at times and the Hoosiers only turned the ball over six times, leading to a 18-5 advantage for Indiana in points off giveaways. One of the main beneficiaries of Indiana's aggressiveness on the break was Jackson-Davis, who beat the Hawkeyes down the floor more than once for easy baskets.
Jackson-Davis's hustle and desire was on display throughout the first half. The freshman played with more fire than we've seen in weeks, scoring nine points with a variety of fast-break baskets and moves down low and grabbing three rebounds. On one possession, he missed twice at the rim, but both times grabbed offensive rebounds around two Iowa players before going up a third time and getting fouled, a remarkable display of pure effort.
The only problem for the Hoosiers in the first half, one that could create concern as the Hawkeyes attempt a second-half comeback, is Indiana's inability to stop Garza. The 6-foot-11 junior has 21 points for Iowa and has proved capable of scoring inside and outside. He's a load in the paint and Brunk has proven utterly incapable of slowing him down. That task has fallen to Jackson-Davis and Thompson and will likely continue to do so. Brunk probably won't get many minutes in the second half. The Hoosiers have also hurt themselves by going only 10 for 17 at the foul line, though the fact they have gotten there so many times is a sign that they've gotten back to what they do best: attacking the basket.
Iowa is a very good offensive team and can score points in bunches. It's likely the Hawkeyes will make a second-half run of some sort. If the Hoosiers can stay poised, a massive, potentially season-saving victory, is in their grasp.