Iowa, led by Greg Stokes' 21 points, extended Indiana's Big Ten losing streak to four games last night, scoring a 72-59 victory, although Hoosiers Coach Bob Knight returned his veterans to the starting lineup.

Knight had benched all his veteran players except 7-foot-2 senior Uwe Blab in last Sunday's 52-41 loss at Illinois.

The 17,035 in Assembly Hall gave an ovation when the veteran starting lineup of Todd Meier, Winston Morgan, Stew Robinson, Steve Alford and Blab was announced.

Knight says he achieved one of the results he wanted -- a hard-working team -- when he started Blab and four freshmen against the Illini.

"When it comes to the sheer playing of the game, if you're not playing the right way, then you sit," Knight earlier told New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica. "I'm not talking about winning; if you play basketball the way it should be played, winning will take care of itself."

Knight's moves against Illinois touched off a furor among Indiana's fans. Knight dismissed the criticism.

"I've been waiting for people to mention last season's Michigan State game, but no one has," Knight said. "I did pretty much the same thing that time as I did Sunday. I went with four freshmen in the starting lineup, and played Blab for maybe five minutes of an overtime game. But we won, so no one cared.

"This time we lost and everyone got in a lather. I figure the people who were most upset were the ones who bet on the stupid game."

Knight said he made the shakeup after disliking what he had seen the team doing.

"I'm talking about effort and intelligence," he said. "If I don't see that, then my position is that I've got eight or nine other kids who aren't starting but who are working every bit as hard at practice every day, and now it's their turn to play.

"That was the situation Sunday. After the game, I went up to Steve Alford and said, 'Have we played as hard in the last two years as we did today?' Alford said no. That was the point of the exercise."

Alford said he understood Knight's decision to bench him and that it "was in my best interest."

In a related action, Knight said he dropped junior Mike Giomi, the team's leading rebounder, from the squad for cutting classes. Giomi was eligible by NCAA and school academic standards.

Knight: "I tell them when they're still in high school, 'The only problem you'll encounter with me as far as the scholarship is concerned is if you don't go to class.' . . . On Monday I said to (Giomi), 'Are you still cutting classes?' He told me he was. That was that. I hate like hell to lose a kid, but he did it to himself."

Giomi said, "You are supposed to attend classes and I'm sorry that the situation (his dismissal) had to occur by me not attending those classes."

Last night, Blab got his third personal foul less than seven minutes into the game. He sat out the rest of the first half as the Hawkeyes dominated the rebounding (39-22 for the game) and took a 27-25 lead at intermission.

Iowa never trailed in the second half, but Indiana got to 48-47 on Robinson's jumper with 11:39 left before the Hawkeyes' 21-8 burst.

Iowa is 16-4 and 6-2 in the conference; Indiana is 11-7 and 3-5.