Brown: Iowa proves it is truly a team against Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Iowa assistant basketball coach Sherm Dillard came to Assembly Hall impeccably dressed Tuesday. That included a bowtie for the third straight game.
"Why change now?" Dillard said before the opening tip.
All I can say is: Fear the bowtie.
The Hawkeyes dominated Indiana in the second half and won 77-63 for their fifth straight Big Ten triumph. The last time Iowa ran off five in a row in league play was the 1996-97 season.
The Hawkeyes reached the 20-victory plateau for the third straight season, improved to 11-6 in the Big Ten and removed any hint of doubt that they've got an NCAA Tournament future.
All that bubble talk now rests on the shoulders of Indiana, which fell to 9-8 in the Big Ten and 19-11 overall. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery called the Hoosiers an NCAA team afterward, then tap-danced around questions about his own team's postseason future.
"All I'm worried about right now is Northwestern," McCaffery said of Saturday's regular-season finale. "I'm not worried about NCAA bids, missing the bubble and all that nonsense. We'll just keep doing what we can do to be the best team we can be."
And that is the secret to Iowa's late-season resurgence. Team.
Five players on the floor as one. Five straight victories.
"This team is together," McCaffery said. "Incredibly unselfish. They truly love one another. There's no better feeling in the world as a coach when you have a team like that."
Iowa was playing its fourth game in 10 days. Three of them were on the road. They left the basketball-crazy state of Indiana with a seventh true road win for the first time since 1990-91. That includes a 6-3 Big Ten road record, the program's best mark since 1986-87.
Senior Aaron White continues to play his best basketball as his Iowa career comes to a close. He had a game-high 21 points against the Hoosiers. And he loves this team.
"We're dedicated to each other, and dedicated to winning," White said. "I love that about us. We play for one another, from the coaches down to the players. That's the highest compliment you can have for a team."
Jarrod Uthoff was a picture of efficiency, scoring 14 points while taking just six shots. He made five of them. He, too, loves this team.
"We're a close-knit group, and I think that shows on the court," Uthoff said. "Especially on the road. That's why we're so good on the road."
It's a team that is willing to be critical yet supportive at the same time. When Gabe Olaseni missed a couple of point-blank shots in the first half, White got on him. Olaseni nodded.
"There's no attitude back," White said. "If I do something wrong, I want someone to jump on me, too."
Olaseni responded. He had eight of his 13 points, five of his seven rebounds and both of his blocked shots in the second half.
That included one electric sequence, when he blocked James Blackmon Jr.'s shot at one end, let the crowd know who had done the swatting, and then rebounded White's miss and slammed it home with one hand.
"I want to make plays for my teammates," Olaseni said. "I think I made a pretty good play. I just reacted. I probably shouldn't have."
Anthony Clemmons had 10 points, and three assists to one turnover. Peter Jok bounced back from five first-half turnovers to play error-free ball with two big 3-pointers the second half. On and on it goes.
Team. Five as one. Five straight victories.