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Will Sheehey's career night leads Hoosiers past Iowa

BLOOMINGTON – Coach Tom Crean found it almost too poetic.

He honored Will Sheehey before the game for becoming the 47th man to score 1,000 career points at Indiana.

Then to Iowa, it must have felt like Sheehey scored 1,000 more by night's end.

“I thought he was going for 2,000,” Crean said.

Sheehey, a senior who has been up-and-down since joining the starting lineup this season, erupted for a career-high 30 points to lead Indiana to a 93-86 upset of the No. 20 Hawkeyes on Thursday at raucous Assembly Hall.

“What an unbelievably ironic thing to get his career high,” Crean said. “We need Will to be Will. We need his courage. We need his leadership. It's not been easy for him.”

Crean said teammates were “going crazy” in the postgame locker room over Sheehey's performance, which began with 10 points in the opening six minutes. Sheehey's previous career-best was 22 points, set last year against Purdue.

“It's good that he let it rip,” said Evan Gordon, who had 12 of Indiana's 42 bench points.

Freshman Stanford Robinson, the most impactful reserve, scored a season-high 17 points as the Hoosiers (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten) outlasted Iowa (19-9, 8-7).

“Coach always says you never know when your time is going to come,” Robinson said. “Everybody on the bench was ready to go. Everybody was on the same page.”

The Hawkeyes, who entered with the nation's third-best scoring margin, committed 18 turnovers, helping Sheehey score on a number of run-outs as the Hoosiers compiled 21 fast-break points.

“Our game plan was to space the floor and run to the corners,” Sheehey said. “Our team from the start was built to run like this. We got the ball out quick.”

Sheehey also hit an array of baseline jumpers and beat defenders on backdoor cuts on his way to 13-of-20 shooting in 30 minutes. The forward carried the Hoosiers on a night Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh combined for just 12 points.

“I was scoring without the ball in my hands when guys found me,” Sheehey said. “A performance like this just shows what kind of teammates I have.”

Indiana, which had lost seven of its last 10 games, improved to 3-1 at home against ranked opponents, with the other victories over Wisconsin and Michigan.

Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell contributed seven points apiece for the Hoosiers, who shot 51 percent from the field and made 27 of 38 free throws. Robinson hit 7 of 10 from the foul line.

The Big Ten's fastest-paced teams put on a show former Indiana coach Branch McCracken would have enjoyed. Up and down the court they flew, running off deflections, made baskets and rebounds, producing a departure from the conference's grinding style.

“They're a running team,” Robinson said. “We decided to just run back with them and play the way Coach Crean's always wanted us to play. We have a lot of athletes on this team, people who can jump high and do a lot of things.”

The teams wrestled with little separation until Sheehey's tip-in put Indiana ahead 80-73 with 2:57 to go. The Hawkeyes never mounted a serious challenge after that.

The Hoosiers had reclaimed the lead at 62-60 on Gordon's banked-in 3 with 13:10 remaining. Indiana then stretched the advantage to 77-69, seemingly unaffected by its second-half struggles at Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Indiana took a 43-35 lead in the first half after Hollowell's baseline jumper. Iowa pulled within 49-48 on Zach McCabe's 3.

The Hoosiers could not score on their final six trips and Iowa led 52-49 at the half.

Indiana stayed cold to start the second half and the Hawkeyes went on an 8-4 run to go up 60-53.

But the Hoosiers climbed back and surged ahead with stops down the stretch.

They held Iowa's offense to five points on 12 possessions over a seven-minute span that ended with 90 seconds left. Indiana took its edge from one point to seven during that time.

“We knew we had to win the game on that end,” said Sheehey, who credited small lineups and switching for Indiana's late defensive success.

Offensively, it was arguably Indiana's best game of the season.

“We needed to improve our spacing,” Crean said. “We needed to improve our commitment to that spacing. For the most part we did that.”

At times Crean used three guards and lineups that included Hollowell at center. Iowa never found an answer for the Hoosiers' strategy.

Their better spacing opened up the middle, where the Hoosiers scored 42 points in the paint. They have scored at least that much six times but have done it just twice in Big Ten play.

Crean said playing small was a counter to Iowa's size, but perhaps such a strong performance will lead him to use the tactic more as the calendar flips to March.

The Hoosiers enhanced their postseason resume, gained confidence and got Sheehey, Robinson and Hollowell going in their latest marquee victory.

Not bad for a night's work.

Indiana has three games left in the regular season, facing Ohio State at home Sunday before a visit from a Nebraska and a trip to Michigan.

“We're right on pace with where we need to be,” Crean said.

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