BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, the answer almost seems simple: Just keep working.
But things aren't getting any better for the No. 20 Hawkeyes.
"You have to keep watching film, you have to keep working with guys individually," McCaffery said after a 93-86 loss to Indiana on Thursday night.
"You have to talk to guys individually, you have to boost their confidence if they're struggling. At some level you have to look at the things that we did wrong, but at some level you have to just move on and say, 'OK, we're going to be better. Collectively, we're going to be better coaches, you're going to be better players.'"
If only it were that easy. And there isn't much time left for improvement with just three regular-season games remaining before the start of the Big Ten tournament.
Roy Devyn Marble had 20 points and Aaron White added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawkeyes (19-9, 8-7 Big Ten), who have lost three straight.
Will Sheehey scored 19 of his career-high 30 points in the first half and Stanford Robinson added a career-best 17 off the bench for the Hoosiers (16-12, 6-9), who beat a Top 25 team for the third time this year. Michigan was No. 10 when the Hoosiers topped the Wolverines on Feb. 2, and Wisconsin was ranked third when Indiana won last month.
This game originally was slated for last week but was postponed after an 8-foot, 50-pound steel plate fell from the ceiling of Assembly Hall about 6½ hours before the scheduled start.
"I wish it was played 10 days ago, now that we lost," McCaffery said. "But everybody was in the same boat. We had to make two trips, OK, but the only thing I can say is if somebody would have gotten hurt or killed that night, we couldn't take that risk. I don't want to make an excuse as to that's why we lost."
Still, the timing certainly wasn't good.
The Hawkeyes host Purdue on Sunday before going to Michigan State next Thursday for the first of two games in three days. They wrap up the regular season at home against Illinois on March 8.
The two weeks leading up to the Big Ten tournament aren't much easier for the Hoosiers. They host Ohio State on Sunday, Nebraska on Wednesday and then go to Michigan on March 8.
The Hawkeyes had a chance to move up in the league standings with No. 22 Ohio State's 65-63 loss at Penn State on Thursday night, and they closed the first half on a 9-0 run. Zach McCabe hit a 3-pointer and White dunked twice, including one with 1:16 left to put Iowa ahead 50-49.
Gabriel Olaseni scored on a hook shot to make it 52-49 at halftime.
"We went to a couple of different things offensively to try to get us to be a little more patient, I thought," McCaffery said. "And when we were patient, we kind of climbed back into the game because it got away from us there for a minute and then we got back in it being a little more patient."
The Hawkeyes also scored six straight points early in the second half.
But the Hoosiers went on a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Evan Gordon that gave them a 62-60 lead with 13:13 remaining.
Indiana scored six straight points to take a 77-69 lead when Robinson converted a three-point play. Sheehey dunked for an 82-73 advantage with 1:35 remaining.
"These guys were just finding me in transition," Sheehey said. "I think Yogi (Ferrell) threw two or three over-the-top passes. Really, I was scoring without the ball in my hands and these guys found me."
The Hawkeyes went on a 6-0 spurt early in the second half to take a 58-51 lead on a basket by Mike Gesell and two more by Melsahn Basabe.
Robinson dunked for Indiana and White dunked for the Hawkeyes before Indiana's 9-0 run to take the lead.
Robinson made a layup, Sheehey hit a 3 and Jeremy Hollowell sank a free throw before Gordon's go-ahead 3. Gordon took a charge from Jarrod Uthoff, but Marble grabbed a steal from Ferrell and scored to tie the game at 62.
Basabe gave the Hawkeyes a 66-64 lead on a putback, but it didn't last long as Indiana went on a 7-2 run.
Devin Davis converted a three-point play and Gordon made a layup. White hit two free throws before Sheehey made a basket to make it 74-69.
The plate that fell at Assembly Hall last week was reinforced with four additional bolts, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said before Thursday's game.
Three other steel plates were found to be loose and those were taken down, inspected, and reinforced to the ceiling with additional bolts as well, Glass said.
Melting snow and ice pushed water behind the steel plate, jarring it loose. Glass said the tops of the plates were shaved off, allowing more room between the ceiling and the plate itself.