IOWA 83, #17 PURDUE 78: THE KIDS ARE GROWING UP

By Adam Jacobi on January 12, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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Another ranked opponent at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, another win for the kids in black and gold.

When we look back on this season, without a doubt, we'll know this was one of Iowa's games of the year. In a battle that featured 20 lead changes over the 40 minutes, Iowa rallied late and knocked off visiting #17 Purdue, 83-78, moving to 3-2 in Big Ten action. 

It's a broken record around these parts that Peter Jok led the team, but this was one of Jok's finest hours as a Hawkeye. He unloaded 29 points, six rebounds and eight assists in the victory, shooting 11-for-19 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep. Jok's eight assists are a career high, and his last one came on an alley-oop to Tyler Cook with three minutes left that helped push Iowa back into the lead.

Also starring in victory were Cook (who nearly met future NBA star Caleb Swanigan stat-for-stat by logging 16 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists and steals) and the ever-fearless Jordan Bohannon (12 points, nine assists and only one turnover). Cordell Pemsl battled through back pain and heavy post contact for eight rebounds along with his four points.

If Iowa had lost this one close, it would have hurt, because it would have been self-inflicted. At one point, Purdue was 21-for-23 from the free throw line (four points above the expected average) while Iowa was simultaneously 4-for-11 (four points below). That is a lot of hidden margin to cede against a quality foe, and leave no doubt: Purdue is quality. That team still might be the favorite to win the Big Ten, even though, well... :).

Astonishingly, though, the game tipped back in Iowa's favor late... at the free throw line. Purdue sharpshooter Ryan Cline missed two free throws off a dead-ball foul with 2:19 left with the game tied at 78—his first two misses of the season. Iowa then scored the last five points of the game at the line, including two Bohannon freebies that came after a loose ball off a Pemsl missed free throw was given to Iowa—even after a video review kinda made it seem like Purdue ball. Not kinda enough, though.

The first time these two teams met, Purdue was up double digits before the Big Ten Network could even switch over from its early game. Iowa sent the message from the get-go that that wasn't happening again. The Hawkeyes traded blows with the Boilermakers through most of the first half to stay within a few points in either direction of the lead, and only a late Boilermakers run pushed the lead to nine at the break. The game had been closer than that. Everyone in the building knew it--especially the two teams on the court.

Purdue center Isaac Haas, who is listed at 7'2", 290 pounds and is assuredly half-Groot, became an avatar of the Boilermakers' strength, both literal and metaphorical. Instead of shrinking from the fight, Iowa took it straight to him. Nicholas Baer (all 6'7" of him) blocked Haas at the rim. Pemsl attempted to do so earlier in the game, but was only denied by an iffy foul call. If that wasn't enough of a direct challenge to Haas' interior supremacy, Pemsl and Ryan Kriener each wrestled him to the ground during separate battles for rebounds, earning jump ball calls. To be clear: battling Haas for possession is like getting in a fight with a vending machine full of bowling balls. Didn't matter. Iowa's true freshmen came for the Tree King, and did not miss.

That's been Iowa's mindset all season, though. The Baby Hawkeyes are just young enough to not know they should be afraid of the likes of Monte Morris, or Zak Irvin, or Isaac Haas or Caleb Swanigan. You got Super Drago? We got 12 damn pieces of iron. What's more, they're forging themselves into steel right before our eyes. This is something special to watch.

Look, though. A comeback win against a ranked opponent—who played like a damn ranked opponent? One of the best wins of the year? You know damn well what time it is.

 

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