McCaffery's reinforcements coming up huge


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The Iowa men's basketball team appeared to be in trouble.

Indiana freshman Cody Zeller was dominating just 40 seconds into Iowa's showdown with the Hoosiers on Sunday. The 6-11 forward — who posted a career-high 26 points against Iowa in the teams' first meeting, on Jan. 29 — scored 5 points on his team's first two possessions by way of an open lay-up and a 3-point play.


An official's whistle seemed to further doom the Hawkeyes. Zach McCabe, who had been given the duty of guarding Zeller, was charged with his second foul before the game was two minutes old.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery looked down his bench. Out with McCabe, in with Melsahn Basabe.

And in with production.

Basabe was in the middle of a 10-0 Iowa run that put the Hawkeyes ahead of Indiana. The sophomore slammed home a missed Devyn Marble lay-up attempt, making Iowa's lead 4.

Basabe recorded the first of a season-high 5 blocks on Indiana's ensuing possession, as well as the first of 7 rebounds on the day. He scored 13 points against the Hoosiers, the most he's tallied since posting 14 at Wisconsin on Dec. 31.

"The way he affected the game was [with] 5 blocks," McCaffery said. "It changes everything. It changes everything for them. It changes everything for us."

Indeed, the 6-7 forward's play was crucial. Indiana head coach Tom Crean said he wasn't at all surprised by Basabe's play, despite the up-and-down season he has produced.

"We didn't follow the scouting report on him," Crean said. "[Basabe] is a very capable player, there's no question about that. He caught the ball too deep, which was a problem. We let him get the ball and get turn the way he wants to turn, and we can't do that."

Following the scouting report on Basabe more closely might have helped the Hoosiers, but no scouting report could've helped Crean's squad with what McCaffery did next.

The Hawkeyes entered the game with what appeared to be a shortened lineup; backup point guard Bryce Cartwright and forward Eric May were both out with injuries.

But as it turned out, just the opposite was true.

McCaffery subbed in a fresh frontcourt of senior Andrew Brommer, freshman Gabe Olaseni, and — perhaps most surprisingly — redshirt freshman Darius Stokes with 13:28 to go in the first half and Iowa leading by 6. It was the first time Stokes had seen meaningful minutes in Big Ten play; he had accumulated a total of 6 minutes in blowout losses against Ohio State, at Indiana, and at Northwestern.

"The one thing we had is when that lineup [of Brommer, Olaseni, and Stokes] is on the floor … is a lot of great size," said McCaffery, who admitted Olaseni and Stokes lack significant experience. "So we could compete in the post, we could compete on the glass — and that's what we did."

The second-year Iowa coach subbed in another rarely used player, sophomore guard Branden Stubbs, with 12:09 remaining in the first half. The walk-on had played 8 minutes in four Big Ten games this year before Sunday, but said McCaffery told him and Stokes to "be ready to get out there, since we're short on players."

"It's definitely fun," said Stubbs, who played only 2 minutes in the first half but did exactly what McCaffery wanted by not turning the ball over. "You get a little adrenaline rush getting out there in a close game."

McCaffery played 11 Hawkeyes before halftime, allowing starters to get some valuable rest. That allowed Iowa to build an 11-point cushion at the break.

Stokes and Brommer left their marks in the scoring column when they re-entered in the game in the second half; both scored with put-backs on back-to-back Iowa possessions. The buckets extended Iowa's lead to 19 points, the largest of the game.

"How great was Darius Stokes tonight?" McCaffery said after the game. "He plays 5 minutes, gets a rebound, and then he gets a tip-in. He played great defense and played with great energy.

"The thing I think that made this win special for us is we needed everybody."

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