Indiana forces 3-way tie in Big Ten standings with defeat of No. 4 Iowa

Indiana’s loss to Penn State on Saturday set up a very interesting stretch in the Hoosiers’ schedule as we enter the back half of Big Ten play. Two games against Iowa plus the only regular-season meetings with Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland would decide where this season’s Indiana team, with its favorable and back-loaded schedule, would ultimately fall in the Big Ten pecking order.

After knocking off No. 4 Iowa 85-78 in Assembly Hall on Thursday night — the program’s sixth win against a top-5 opponent at home in the past five years — the Hoosiers are in a tie for first place in the Big Ten standings (with Maryland and Iowa) with a 10-2 conference record and sitting pretty at 20-5 overall heading into Sunday’s game against the Spartans (on CBS/CBSSports.com).

Indiana was firing on all cylinders early, leading by as many as 15 midway through the first half and getting seven 3-pointers before halftime, including three from Nick Zeisloft.

Zeisloft’s first-half explosion was just part of an all-around great effort from Indiana’s reserves, who outscored Iowa’s bench 28-0. But when it was time to step up in the clutch it was key plays from the usual suspects, Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams, that prevented the Hawkeyes from stealing the lead back in the final minutes.

Iowa got 24 points from Jared Uthoff and a crazy-good performance down low from Evan Woodbury (13 points, 15 rebounds), but there were too many missed free throws, and too many fouls, for the Hawkeyes to overcome an Indiana lead that was powered by the rowdy home crowd.

Ultimately a road loss here is not the end of the world for Iowa, especially given its consistency during the rest of the season, but it’s a huge boost for Tom Crean and Indiana heading into this crucial stretch of the Big Ten schedule. Indiana may not finish the regular season in a tie for first place, but that’s where the Hoosiers sit now after one of the biggest wins of the season.

Yogi Ferrell and Indiana are in a tie for first place in the Big Ten. (USATSI)

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