IOWA CITY — The Iowa basketball team got off to another of those agonizingly awful starts Tuesday night.
But one thing was different this time: It recovered.
Peter Jok set an Iowa single-game free throw record and scored a Big Ten career-high 35 points, including 15 in overtime, as the Hawkeyes rebounded from a sluggish start to claim a 96-90 victory over Indiana, ending a three-game losing streak and keeping alive their hopes for some sort of postseason tournament berth.
They are now 15-13, 7-8 in the Big Ten, heading into the final three games of the regular season.
Jok made 22 of 23 free throw attempts in the game to set an all-time Iowa record. Don Nelson held the previous standard, making 21 in a game against the Hoosiers in 1962.
The two teams were tied at 75-75 at the end of regulation but Jok relentlessly scored on almost every possession in overtime. He scored inside twice early in the extra period, then added 11 free throws. Jordan Bohannon also connected on 4 of 4 foul shots in overtime.
“I’m just incredibly proud of them and I told them that after the game,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “There were a number of times we could have packed it in but we never did.’’
Tyler Cook added 14 points for the Hawkeyes with Nicholas Baer and Christian Williams netting 10 apiece while making some of the biggest plays of the game.
“We needed this bad,’’ Williams said. “We’ve been working hard lately and we haven’t been rewarded. We needed this.’’
Indiana (15-13, 5-10 Big Ten), which suffered its fifth straight loss, got 19 points from Robert Johnson and 18 from James Blackmon, but they were two of four Hoosiers who fouled out of the game. The visitors committed 35 fouls in the game and also hurt themselves with 22 turnovers.
The Hawkeyes again dug themselves an early hole, spotting Indiana a 9-0 lead.
It’s the fifth time in Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes allowed an opposing team to open a lead of 8-0 or better. They fell behind Purdue, Northwestern and Maryland 8-0 in games earlier in the conference season and trailed Illinois 10-0 in a Jan. 25 game. They lost all four games, two of them by more than 20 points.
So when Josh Newkirk scored seven quick points to give Indiana a 9-0 lead with little more than two minutes elapsed on Tuesday, McCaffery wasn’t in a mood to be patient. He removed his entire starting lineup en masse with 17 minutes 50 seconds left in the half.
“We needed some energy,’’ McCaffery said. “We didn’t have the necessary energy at the start of the game. That was disappointing … We didn’t answer the bell.’’
When McCaffery didn’t like the way Dom Uhl was playing, he inserted oft-injured Dale Jones, who had played only six minutes all season. When Cordell Pemsl messed up, he sent Ryan Kriener into the game. He used 12 different players within the game’s first four minutes.
“Coach made a statement. He pulled the whole starting five,’’ Bohannon said. “We kind of got the hint after that.’’
The Hoosiers built their lead to as much as 13 but the Hawkeyes, led by Baer, gradually began to get some defensive stops and Jok finally got rolling at the offensive end.
Thanks to a 12-0 run, the Hawkeyes trailed by only 33-32 at halftime.
The Hawkeyes spent most of the second half scrambling to stay close and they finally tied the score at 55-55 on a 3-pointer by Bohannon — his first points of the game — with 6:47 remaining. The Hoosiers knocked down three straight threes and got the lead back up to eight (66-58).
But the Hawkeyes again battled back, scoring a majority of their points at the foul line and finally tying the score at 70 on Williams’ spectacular lob pass to Cook for a dunk with 2:46 remaining.
The was still tied, at 73-73, coming down the stretch. Jok gave Iowa the lead on two free throws with 1:26 to go but Newkirk tied it with two foul shots with 25.6 seconds left.
Iowa got the ball inside to Cook as time ran out in regulation but he missed, sending the game to overtime.
Once the game got to overtime, Jok made up his mind the Hawkeyes weren’t going to lose.
“The last time we had a close game I didn’t step up as a leader the way I should have,’’ Jok said. “I told the guys I wanted the ball. I felt I had a mismatch the whole time and I wanted to take advantage of it.’’