Iowa shows ability to adjust during 70-55 victory over Purdue
High-scoring Hawkeyes win Big Ten opener over Purdue with a different style
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – One sign of a good team is the ability to adjust and handle different circumstances, and different matchups and different styles of play.
The fourth-ranked Iowa men’s basketball team showed that ability during Tuesday’s 70-55 victory over Purdue in the Big Ten opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It was the fewest points that Iowa has scored in eight games this season, but it didn’t matter because Iowa defended well, and because Iowa handled everything that Purdue tried to accomplish.
Purdue was able to control tempo in many respects, considering the low final score, but it didn’t matter because Iowa adapted to the slower tempo and just grinded, one possession at a time.
Fran McCaffery, and his players, would prefer to push the pace on offense, and really, who wouldn’t?
But sometimes, a team has to adjust, and play by somebody else’s unwritten rules.
And with how this particular Purdue team is built, Tuesday’s game figured to be more of a grinder than a track meet, and that proved true.
Senior center Luka Garza scored 22 points, which by his incredibly high standards is just ordinary, but he also scored at least 20 points for the 17th consecutive time against a Big Ten opponent, matching what Dennis Hopson did for Ohio State in 1987.
Garza and his cohorts have shown time and time again that they can score points in a hurry, and score a lot of points.
Iowa has multiple shooters who are capable of getting on a hot streak at any moment.
Senior guard Jordan Bohannon made his 300th career 3-point basket late in Tuesday’s game, and now ranks 10th on the Big Ten’s all-time list.
Junior guard Joe Wieskmap has averaged in double figures throughout his career, and he had 17 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday’s game, while sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick is capable of scoring 20 points on any given night.
And when they’re all together on the court, Garza and his cohorts love to push the tempo and shoot threes in transition and just go, go, go.
That style didn’t work in the 99-88 loss to Gonzaga last Saturday. But Iowa also missed 12 free throws and was horrendous from 3-point range, and yet still had a chance to trim the deficit to six points on a 3-point attempt late in the second half.
The impressive thing about Tuesday’s victory over Purdue is that Iowa showed that it can win a rugged, half-court game, can win with defense, and with rebounding.
Defense and rebounding both require toughness and hustle, especially at the Big Ten level where so many players are tall and talented.
The knock on this group of Iowa players is that they don’t always defend, they don’t always rebound, and that they’re too impatient to play at a slower pace.
And while it was only game, Iowa certainly defied that stereotype.
“We can play in multiple different ways,” Garza said. “I think we have the confidence and scorers to push the ball and make the game a lot faster. And I think in this game we grinded it a little bit more. They obviously have a really good offensive team, so they were making it tough on us. It was just a good effort all around.”
Had you told Purdue coach Matt Painter that Iowa would score just 70 points in Tuesday’s game, he probably would’ve liked his chances.
But instead, his team lost by 15 points, and for the first time in five games against the Hawkeyes.
It was also Iowa’s first win in a Big Ten opener since 2015.
The Iowa players had extra incentive to play well against Purdue because the Boilermakers ruined Iowa’s Senior Day last season by winning at Carver-Hawkeye, and they also crushed Iowa in West Lafayette, Ind.
Iowa had a score to settle, and they settled it despite not scoring as many points as usual.
In other words, the Iowa players adjusted to the circumstances and played with toughness and with tenacity on defense.
The Hawkeyes will now hit the road for a rare Christmas night game at Minnesota on Friday.
It won’t be easy, but for this Iowa team to live up to the enormous expectations and hype, it’ll have to win some Big Ten road games.
It’ll have to win playing fast, and playing slow.
It’ll have to win with finesse, and with power.