IOWA CITY — Junior guard Robert Johnson stood at half-court of Carver Hawkeye Arena with 38 seconds left in overtime with his jersey over his face and both of his hands behind his head.
He had just become the third Hoosier to foul out in the game.
The Hoosiers had once held a 13-point lead in the early stages of the first half but were hampered by turnovers and fouls in the late stages of the game. After leading up until the 2:10 mark in the second half, the Hoosiers forced overtime. Iowa took advantage of the free throw line in the late stages of the game and IU lost its fifth straight game 96-90 in overtime moving to 15-13 overall and 5-10 in the Big Ten.
IU had every reason to win Tuesday night on the road at Iowa. Losers of four straight games, the Hoosiers couldn’t have started the game much better. IU started the game on a 9-0 run which forced Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to pull his entire starting five 2:10 into the game.
The Hoosiers knocked down seven shots in the first five minutes and found themselves up 17-4 in the early stages.
The Hawkeyes quickly corrected themselves on defense, switching to a 2-3 zone they took the Hoosiers out of rhythm completely on offense. IU made just six shots the rest of the half and saw its lead quickly diminish to one before the break.
“We played a lot of zone because at the beginning of the game, we were man and they took it right to us,” McCaffery said. “So we went to the zone. The zone was good. Then they figured out the zone and they were making threes and were moving the ball.”
In the second half, IU started strong andevery time Iowa would make a basket and come close to overtaking the lead, the Hoosiers would answer.
The downfall for IU on Tuesday, in addition to 22 turnovers was the foul trouble. Within the first five minutes of the second half the Hoosiers had six team fouls, which meant Iowa would be in the bonus for the rest of the game.
Many of the fouls in the game left IU players and coaches beside themselves, but the officials were calling an even game both ways. Three minutes after Iowa entered the bonus, so did IU. With the multitude of touch fouls called on the Hoosiers tonight, Johnson said it’s tough to figure out what is going to be a foul and what isn’t throughout the game.
“You think the rule is one way but you know different referees call it different,” Johnson said. “You just have to read the game and just adjust to how they’re calling it.”
The Hawkeyes came close to retaking the lead many times throughout the night and with six minutes left, a 3-pointer from Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon tied the game up at 55. However, IU was able to respond. Johnson and fellow junior guard James Blackmon Jr. hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Hoosiers back up six.
Down the stretch Iowa executed and with 2:13 to play took its first lead of the game. With IU down two with 30 seconds left, Johnson poked the ball away and junior guard Josh Newkirk picked it up and was fouled on the fast break. Newkirk sunk both free throws to tie the game at 75.
IU was forced to play defense on the final possession of the game. Iowa freshman forward Tyler Cook got a solid look in the paint but sophomore forward Thomas Bryant shut him down at the buzzer and the teams headed to overtime.
The difference in the second half and overtime was free throws. Iowa got to the line and IU did not. The Hoosiers had four players with four fouls at the end of regulation and by the end of overtime, four Hoosiers fouled out.
Iowa made 39-47 free throws Tuesday night and senior guard Peter Jok went 22-23 from the stripe notching 35 points. Iowa got to the line 14 times in overtime, Jok accounted for 10 of those free throws.
Turnovers and fouls plagued the Hoosiers down the stretch and after they had commanded the lead for the majority of the game, they could not close it out down the stretch once again.
“Basketball is a game of runs and we made them run early,” Johnson said. “Any good team is going to respond and that’s what they did. We tried to weather the storm and I think at the end of the game we did a good job doing that, we just fell a little short.”