Life has been easy for Indiana since it was handed its first loss two weeks ago. That could change Monday as it opens play in the conference that many consider to be the best in the country.
In their first true road contest of the season, the fifth-ranked Hoosiers begin their Big Ten schedule at Iowa on New Year's Eve.
Indiana (12-1) has lost in its last four trips to Iowa City, but has won three straight games by 34 points or more since an 88-86 overtime loss to Butler on Dec. 15. With leading scorer Cody Zeller limited due to foul trouble in Friday's game against Jacksonville, the Hoosiers turned to Jordan Hulls, who scored 17 of a season-high 20 points in the first half of a 93-59 victory.
Hulls, who averages 11.8 points, went 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
"I've been pretty passive and they've been telling me to shoot more," said Hulls, one of the nation's top 3-point shooters at 54.5 percent. "Growing up I was always a pass-first guy, but I felt good today and I felt good all this week."
Although the Hoosiers had no trouble getting by Jacksonville with Zeller in foul trouble, it likely won't as easy if their All American is forced to the bench in conference play. In addition to Indiana there are five other Big Ten teams in the Top 25.
"It was a tough night for him early, because he couldn't be aggressive," Indiana coach Tom Crean said of Zeller, who averages 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. "It was my choice for sitting him that long. Two weeks from now, I wouldn't sit him with two fouls for that long in the first half."
Already dealing with injuries to Austin Etherington (knee) and Maurice Creek (foot), the Hoosiers will be glad to get freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell back Monday. He sat out Friday's game as Indiana announced less than an hour before tip-off that the school and the NCAA were looking into compliance issues.
Athletics director Fred Glass released a statement Sunday stating that the NCAA had cleared Hollowell of any potential infractions. He is averaging 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 13 minutes.
The Hawkeyes (11-2) are looking for their first seven-game win streak since a nine-game run from Nov. 30-Dec. 31, 2004, after an 80-50 home victory against Coppin State on Dec. 22.
Sophomore forward Aaron White (13.6 ppg) led the attack, scoring 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting - including six dunks - but Iowa was a disconcerting 0 for 17 from 3-point range.
"A little surprised," coach Fran McCaffery said. "I mean, it seemed like we took good shots. We had good shooters. They were in and out. I'm not worried about it."
Iowa's 31.7 percent 3-point shooting ranks ninth among Big Ten teams, while Indiana leads the conference at 42.1.
The Hawkeyes also received some good personnel news, as junior forward Melsahn Basabe (6.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) has been cleared to play after spraining his ankle against Coppin State.
The teams split last season's two meetings, with unranked Iowa knocking off then-No. 18 Indiana at home on Feb. 19. Zeller had 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
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