IOWA CITY, Iowa – As the Indiana men’s basketball team opened its conference slate Monday evening in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Iowa, IU Coach Tom Crean’s players had to not only adjust to Big Ten talent, but Big Ten home crowds as well.
In the team’s first true road game of the season, the Hoosiers had to battle through the raucous Hawkeye crowd that filled every seat in the arena. They had to make late-game free throws with the game on the line and the fans jumping around yelling and screaming, a part of the game the Hoosiers haven’t had to factor in yet this season.
Despite a late Iowa surge in the second half, the Hoosiers were able to fend off the Hawkeyes and their fans, pulling out the victory 69-65 to begin the conference season with a win.
Leading up to Monday’s game, though, IU had struggled against the Hawkeyes, dropping five of the teams’ last six matchups, spanning three seasons. The lone win came last season when IU hosted Iowa and won an offensive battle 103-89.
The Hoosiers had last won in Iowa City in 2008. Junior guard Victor Oladipo said that the team knew coming in that they were going to have to battle hard and turn that trend around.
“They’ve been kind of punking us the last couple years, especially here,” Oladipo said. “They’ve been out-rebounding us and just out-playing us, and I think this year, it was just kind of a mentality that we were going to come in here and take the first punch. We were going to play hard, and I think we did a phenomenal job tonight.”
During the Crean era, the Hoosiers have struggled on the road in the Big Ten, and even last season, as the team broke into the rankings and the national spotlight, Crean’s squad went just 3-6 on the road in conference play.
Oladipo said that starting off the conference season with a win, especially on the road, was a big accomplishment, and teammate sophomore forward Cody Zeller agreed.
But he may have had it a little easier than the rest of the Hoosiers.
Zeller said that his family, which includes his dad’s 11 brothers and sisters, held a reunion last night in the area in hopes that several of them could come to Monday’s game.
He said his uncle bought close to 50 tickets for the Zeller clan, and it was great to have them amongst the Iowa fans, but he relishes getting to play in front of loud away crowds.
“I love playing in big crowds, whether they’re cheering for you or against you,” Zeller said. “It get’s your adrenaline flowing. You want to play on the biggest stages. It’s a lot of fun.”
Junior forward Will Sheehey, on the other hand, did not have a large block of fans cheering him on Monday.
In fact, as the “Sheehey sucks” chants exploded from the Iowa student section midway through the second half, it appeared that Sheehey may have been the most hated man in Iowa City Monday afternoon.
They began as he pleaded with the referees for a couple calls that didn’t fall IU’s way, and after that, the heckling began.
“They were classy,” Sheehey said.
He added that the boos and the derogatory chants are all apart of the Big Ten atmosphere.
“Our fans would do the same thing, our fans would do the same thing, and to think that any team in the Big Ten’s fans wouldn’t be just as involved in rallying on their team, that’s just the way it works,” Sheehey said.