By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa -- In its past three games, Iowa has played the first half like it didn't hear the opening whistle.
The Hawkeyes never recovered the first time and got drilled by Drake, 60-43, after falling behind by 16 early. Iowa was able to overcome the second one in large part because their opponent, Western Illinois, didn't have the skill or athleticism to hang with the Hawkeyes for 40 minutes.
Iowa (10-4, 0-1 Big Ten) did it again Wednesday at No. 24 Ohio State -- and almost made up for it.
The Hawkeyes erased a 15-point deficit and jumped ahead, 65-64 with 3:31 left. But the Buckeyes held them scoreless the rest of the way and came out on top 68-65.
Coach Todd Lickliter said Friday that while the rally was encouraging, the game was ultimately a disappointment because the Hawkeyes let a win slip away.
Iowa will hope for a better start Saturday when they host struggling Indiana (5-7) in their Big Ten home opener.
"I thought our guys showed a better demeanor in the second half, better poise and we were able to capitalize a little bit," Lickliter said. "We should draw on those things. We should also draw on...our struggles in the first half."
With four of its first five Big Ten games against teams ranked in this week's Associated Press Top 25, Indiana represents Iowa's best opportunity to work out the kinks.
The Hoosiers are in the early stages of a major rebuilding effort under first-year coach Tom Crean, who is working with a team that lost 98.8 percent of its scoring from last season.
Indiana just might be the least experienced Big Ten team in recent memory. Indiana's current roster -- which was gutted by graduation, Eric Gordon's defection to the NBA and a host of dismissals for disciplinary reasons -- scored a total of 19 points last season in Big Ten play.
Indiana's inexperience has shown up in their recent results. The Hoosiers have lost five of their last six, including two straight at home to Northeastern and Lipscomb.
Lickliter said he can relate to Indiana's plight, having had to start from scratch at Iowa last season. In fact, only Indiana has less Big Ten experience than the Hawkeyes -- though there's still a vast difference between the two.
"It's a deal where they're new to one another, and we went through that last year and we're still going through it some," Lickliter said.
One major positive that came out of Iowa's loss at Ohio State was the play of freshman Matt Gatens. With leading scorer Anthony Tucker still seemingly in Lickliter's doghouse -- he played just one minutes against the Buckeyes -- Gatens scored 22 points.
Gatens leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage at 53.2 percent, and Lickliter praised the youngster for his maturity and team-first attitude.
"He takes really good shots. They're open, he's very capable," Lickliter said. "We really need Matt."
The Hawkeyes have a brutal three-game stretch following Indiana, as they host No. 21 Minnesota and travel to face No. 23 Michigan and No. 9 Purdue. But Lickliter said he's simply focused on the next opponent, to the point where he said he wasn't aware that four of Iowa's first five league games were against ranked foes.
"I'm not focused on the overall picture ... I'm well aware of how good they are," Lickliter said of Iowa's opponents. "I would not want to sell any opponent in the Big Ten short. They're all excellent teams that can compete at a very high level."