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Iowa-Indiana Preview

AP - Sports

Indiana still owns control of first place in the Big Ten, but things just got a little tighter. The top-ranked Hoosiers might not be able to afford another misstep if they are to win their first outright league title since 1993.

They'll try to avoid a second consecutive upset loss Saturday at home against Iowa, which nearly knocked off Indiana to begin conference play.

The Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3) entered this week 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Michigan State and two ahead of Wisconsin, but that lead has dropped to one over both teams. The Spartans have yet to play this week and the Badgers routed Nebraska on Tuesday, the same night Indiana had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 77-73 road loss to a Minnesota team which had lost eight of 11.

"Winning the Big Ten was going to be tough whether we won today or lost," said Victor Oladipo, the conference leader in field-goal percentage at 63.3. "We knew it was going to be tough from the jump. Now it's even tougher. But I think my team is ready for it. We just have to go back and see what we did wrong and correct it."

What happened to the Hoosiers was uncharacteristic - they were largely outmuscled. Averaging a plus-8.2 rebounding margin this season, Indiana was beaten on the glass 44-30 and outscored in the paint 40-22.

Perhaps most glaring, though, were the struggles of Cody Zeller, who along with Oladipo was recently named a finalist for Naismith Player of the Year. Ranked among the top three in the conference in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage, Zeller shot 2 of 9 for nine points with a career high-tying four turnovers.

He had averaged 18.3 points in his previous seven games.

"Cody's certainly capable of a lot," coach Tom Crean said, "and I think he'll bounce back just fine."

Indiana would like to see Zeller return to the form he displayed New Year's Eve in the first meeting with Iowa, when he finished 7 of 12 for 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The Hawkeyes (18-10, 7-8), though, kept that game close throughout before losing 69-65.

They've won four of five but have yet to beat a ranked team, going 0-5 against Top 25 foes with three losses by four points or fewer.

Coach Fran McCaffery's squad bounced back from a loss at lowly Nebraska with a 58-48 home win over Purdue on Wednesday despite being without starting point guard Mike Gesell. The freshman missed his first game with a right foot injury and isn't expected to return until the Big Ten tournament.

Gesell is averaging 9.0 points, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals.

"Anytime you lose a guy of his caliber, everybody has got to step up. It can't be one person," McCaffery said. " ... We're not a team that is going to play seven guys and one guy goes down, 'Now what do we do?'

"We'll be happy when he comes back, but right now we've got other guys that can play, let's go play."

Iowa's league-best 3-point defense (28.9 percent) will try to clamp down on an Indiana team which is among the best in the country from beyond the arc at 42.6 percent. The Hoosiers have made at least seven 3s in 10 straight games, and Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford are the conference's most accurate 3-point shooters at 50.0 and 49.5 percent, respectively.

In the first matchup, Indiana hit 4 of 14 3-point attempts.

The Hawkeyes hope for a better performance from leading scorer Devyn Marble (14.0 ppg), who was 1 of 14 from the field in the first meeting. He's averaged 18.8 points over the past five games.

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