By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – If the Iowa men’s basketball team has a weakness, it’s on defense, and that’s where the Hawkeyes have been criticized the most.
Though one game doesn’t solve everything, Tuesday’s 70-55 win over Purdue in the Big Ten opener at Carver-Hawkeye should help erase some of the doubt.
Fourth-ranked Iowa (7-1) held Purdue to several scoring droughts and to 8-of-25 shooting from three-point range after allowing 99 points during a 99-88 loss to top-ranked Gonzaga last Saturday.
“It was by far our best effort on the glass and defensively,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I thought we were pretty good — really good actually — against Carolina. We were locked in. But we out-rebounded them. Which is hard to do. Purdue is always a terrific rebounding team. They run a lot of stuff and they execute extremely well. Always have.
“So we had to stay connected and we had to keep the effort and intensity. So I think you look at what the game plan was coming in, you know, it was defense and rebounding, and it was probably our best effort of the year.”
Junior guard Joe Wieskamp said learning from the loss to Gonzaga played a big part in Iowa buckling down defensively against Purdue.
“I think we learned our lesson from Gonzaga,” Wieskamp said. “I think we knew that was an opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it. We made a lot of mistakes defensively, in transition. I think we really watched the film and took that criticism to heart and really focused on ways in which we can improve. Realizing that we’re a team that can score the ball with anyone in the country, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get stops, and I think our defensive intensity all night was terrific.”
Wieskamp also was a big part of Iowa’s rebounding success.
The Muscatine native pulled down seven of his nine rebounds in the first half, scored 17 points and was affective as a perimeter defender.
It was Wieskamp’s third game with nine rebounds this season.
“He had a really good game Saturday offensively; defensively not so much,” McCaffery said. “And I’m not blaming him because everybody else wasn’t so good either. But I think what this game shows is the character of Joe Wieskamp. We said, OK, we didn’t do some things we should have done on Saturday that we have to correct and learn from that and make the necessary changes, and they did. And Joe was right at the forefront of all that. Very proud of him.”
Wieskamp said the coaching staff stressed that he would have to rebound well in order for Iowa to break a four-game losing streak against Purdue.
“That’s something I’ve always prided myself on is being a good rebounder,” Wieskamp said. “I try to help our team out in the regard, being kind of a bigger-sized guard. And that’s something the coaches really kind of drilled into me is you’ve got to help us rebound this game, because they’ve got some big dudes that Luka is going to be battling with down low.”
Iowa was led in scoring by senior center Luka Garza, whose game-high 22 points passed Acie Earl for third on Iowa’s all-time scoring list and scored 20 points for the 17th straight game in Big Ten play dating back to last season.
It is the longest such streak since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987.
Iowa’s next game is at Minnesota on Christmas Night.