A sell-out crowd will witness the Iowa men’s basketball contest against No. 5 Indiana on New Year’s Eve.
It will be the first sold out game of the year for the Hawkeyes, who will try win their seventh straight game for the first time since 2004. If they can do so, it will come against the highest scoring team in the nation as the Hoosiers average just more than 89 points per game.
“They recognize our opponent and their history and the fact that they are ranked fifth,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “And they want to see great basketball.
The Hawkeyes are off to their best start since the 2004-05 season after going 11-2 in the non-conference season. Iowa also will take an undefeated home record into Monday’s contest.
The Hawkeyes have won 10 straight games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, have won 14 of their last 15 overall and defeated Indiana in the last four meetings in Iowa City.
“There’s a lot of things that we have to pay attention to,” McCaffery said. “If you look at last year’s game here, it was completely different than the one that was played there. They are a big spurt team. You know, you are looking right at them and the next thing you know you’re down 15 and it happens so quickly.
“And a lot of times because they are talented because they move the ball and they make 3s and they are very unselfish.”
To beat Indiana, the Hawkeyes (11-2) will have to have one of their best defensive performances of the season. The Hoosiers have scored 90 or more points in five games this season and have topped the 100-point plateau twice. Their scoring margin also is tops in the nation as they are outscoring opponents by nearly 30 points per game.
“This team is going to make you guard them,” McCaffery said. “If you don’t guard them they are averaging 89. That’s a big number. They averaged 80 last year, now they are averaging 89.”
Indiana, which was the preseason No. 1 team before recently falling to Butler in overtime, features five guys in double figures. The Hoosiers’ best player is Cody Zeller and he is averaging 16.4 points and a Big Ten best 8.1 rebounds, but Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford also give Hoosiers a stout frontcourt.
Oladipo averages 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Watford scores 13 points and hauls in 6.3 rebounds per contest.
The backcourt also is productive with and Jordan Hulls scoring in double-figures. Hulls also averages four assists per game and buries 52.6 percent of his 3-pointers, which ranks fifth in the nation.
Point guard Kevin Ferrell is second in the Big Ten in assists at 5.1 per game.
“Obviously, Ferrell has made a dramatic impact on that team and has taken a lot of pressure off everybody else,” McCaffery said. “It has enabled Hulls to — he’s just killing it from the 3. He’s made 30 3s. He’s playing at a high level and doesn’t have to worry about handling the ball as much.”
Will Sheehey also comes off the bench to average in double figures.
“I think the difference in their team this year is the play of Oladipo and Sheehey,” McCaffery said. “They are playing like veterans now. They are not making the mistakes. They are really playing like elite players.”
Indiana (11-1) leads the all-time series 95-74, but Iowa has controlled things of late. The Hawkeyes have won 11 of 16 and have taken seven of the last eight meetings in Iowa City. At Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa is 19-9 all-time against Indiana.
Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes at nearly 16 points per game and brings down four rebounds per game. Aaron White is just behind him at 13.6 points and leads the Hawkeyes in rebounding at 6.5 per contest.
Freshman point guard Mike Gesell scores nearly 10 points per game and is one of just nine freshman in the nation to average at least nine points, three rebounds and three assists per game.
“I think they all feel good about themselves,” McCaffery said about his club. “They recognize who we are playing and they recognize the challenge before us. I think they feel good about themselves.”
Iowa has not played a game in eight days but is 16-2 in the last three years when scoring at least 80 points. The Hawkeyes also are 21-0 in that same span when holding their opponents to less than 60.
Iowa should match up well Monday as both teams feature two 6-foot guards, a 6-foot-5 wing and a 7-footer.
“To be honest with you I’m not like that. I look at who we play and I just try to put a game plan that I think will work for us,” McCaffery said. “They are going to start a traditional lineup, but they could go small. They have played Oladipo and Sheehey and Sheehey is the four, and they done that. So he’s got a lot of options he can go to there. So, you know, we’ll just lineup and play whatever they send out.”
Tip-off is set for 3:05 p.m. Iowa has designated this contest its “Blackout Carver” game and the Big Ten opener for both teams can be seen on ESPN.