Ninth-seeded Indiana will look to continue its surprise run in the Big Ten tournament when it faces fifth-seeded Iowa in the semifinals on Saturday.
The Hoosiers (20-12) upset top-seed Illinois 65-63 on Friday, a win that may have cemented their NCAA Tournament hopes. The win advances Indiana to the Big Ten tournament semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“We didn’t pack for two days,” Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “We didn’t pack for three days; we packed to win the Big Ten.”
Jackson-Davis has fueled Indiana’s run in the Big Ten tournament, averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in wins over Michigan and Illinois.
“There’s been a lot of talk, especially the last two years of me not showing up at the end of the season,” Jackson-Davis said. “So I’m trying to change that narrative.”
Indiana finished the regular season with one of the top defenses in the Big Ten, and it has carried over into the postseason. In their two Big Ten tournament wins, the Hoosiers have held opponents to a combined 36 percent from the floor.
“Defense wins games,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “The offense is not going to be there every night, but if you can put a good defensive system in place, you put yourself in a great position to win every game, you going to be in every ballgame, and that’s how we’ve been all season.”
#24 Iowa (24-9) advanced to the semifinals with an 84-74 win over fourth-seeded Rutgers on Friday afternoon. The Hawkeyes avenged a 48-46 loss to Rutgers in the regular season.
Iowa shot 49.1 percent from the field and 92.6 percent from the foul line (25 of 27) to secure the win.
“Our defense was really good,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It’s a hard team to out-rebound and we did that, so that says a lot about our guys. Happy and ready to move on.”
Keegan Murray has sparked an Iowa offense that’s averaged 98 points in its two Big Ten tournament wins. Murray has averaged 26 points in the last two games.
“We can get on a run at any point in the game,” Murray said. “So for us it’s just keeping the mentality that just never give up, whether we’re up 20 or down 20, that’s just kind of the mindset we’ve had these last stretch of games.”
In the lone meeting between the two schools in the regular season, Iowa beat Indiana 83-74 at home on Jan. 13. In that game, Iowa rallied back from down seven points at halftime. The Hawkeyes flustered Indiana with their press, forcing 34 points off 27 Indiana turnovers.
McCaffery expects another tough matchup in the semifinals.
“You have to be really impressed with the job that Indiana’s done here in particular,” McCaffery said. “You know, they lost some games down the stretch, but I don’t think in any way it was indicative of the caliber of team. They lost a couple really tough games. The ball didn’t bounce their way and they just kept coming. And they showed up here, I think, determined.”