Second verse, same as the first? When it comes to Senior Night, the answer is unfortunately "yes" for Iowa men's basketball. For the second year in a row, Iowa got played off the court on Senior Night. Last year it was Rutgers, this year it was a Purdue team fighting for their NCAA Tournament life. It turns out that first Iowa-Purdue game wasn't just "Mackey being Mackey."
Purdue outplayed, out-coached, and out-hustled Iowa from the opening whistle. They played harder and they played smarter. They killed Iowa on offense, they killed Iowa on defense, they killed Iowa on hustle plays, they killed Iowa on 50/50 balls. They beat Iowa in every stat that mattered, including (most importantly) on the scoreboard.
Iowa and Purdue actually played to a virtual dead heat in terms of shooting percentages. Purdue made 37.3% of their field goals; Iowa made 37.5%. Purdue made 29.6% of their 3s (8/27); Iowa made 26.7% (8/30). Even free throws were basically even (19/22 for Purdue, 18/22 for Iowa). Iowa and Purdue were even on turnovers as well (15 apiece). So why was this game never particularly close once Purdue built a double-digit lead in the first half? Well, because:
- Purdue had 21 (!) offensive rebounds, Iowa had 8
- Purdue had 20 second chance points off those offensive boards; Iowa had 8
- Purdue had 25 points off Iowa turnovers; Iowa had 10 points off Purdue giveaways
- Purdue also outdid Iowa in the paint, 30 to 20
Purdue seemed to win every hustle play. They were quickest to every loose ball. They devoured the glass, especially on the offensive end, where their +13 edge in offensive boards gave them 11 additional shot attempts. One way to make up for not shooting very well is just to get more bites at the apple, which Purdue did extremely well.
Once they built their big lead, they were content to just keep Iowa at arm's length, which they did successfully. Iowa's offense belatedly came to life in the second half, but it was too little too late at that point. Iowa could never get the lead below 10 with meaningful time remaining. They could never get consistent defensive stops when they needed them, either, which resulted in a lot of bucket-trading, something Purdue was more than happy to do after entering the second half with a 15-point lead.
The only bright spot for Iowa? Well, you can probably guess that -- it's the same thing that's been a bright spot for Iowa all season long: Luka Garza. Garza had another stellar outing overall, finishing with 26 points (9/17 shooting) and 12 rebounds. It was his 15th straight game with 20+ points and his 15th double-double of the season. More importantly, the 26 points give him 712 for the season and breaking John Johnson's 50-year old single season scoring record (699 points).
It's disappointing that the record was broken in what was such a lackluster performance by Iowa overall, but so it goes. Garza's incredible consistency has been one of the key storylines for Iowa this entire season and it was on display in this game.
Unfortunately, he got very little help from anyone else on Iowa. Joe Wieskamp was the only other Iowa player to hit double figures; he had 10 points, despite another rough night shooting the ball (3/7, 0/2 3FG). CJ Fredrick made a few shots early, but cooled off and finished with 8 points on 2/7 shooting (2/5 from 3-point range). Connor McCaffery got a lot of open looks, but he struggled to hit them, finishing with just 6 points on 2/8 shooting. Purdue was very willing to give open looks to McCaffery and Bakari Evelyn -- and they were unable to make the Boilermakers pay for that decision. Evelyn had 4 points on 1/5 shooting (0/4 from long range). He and McCaffery combined to shoot 2/12 from behind the arc, despite getting (theoretically) good looks on most of those attempts. That was part of Iowa's problem in a nutshell, really: shots weren't falling.
Iowa's bench wasn't able to provide much of a boost, either. After a strong outing against Penn State on Saturday, the bench mob was much quieter in this one. In addition to Evelyn's struggles, Ryan Kriener wasn't able to get much going, either. He made a few shots in the second half to try and spark an Iowa run, but finished with 9 points on 3/9 shooting, along with two rebounds and three blocks. He also left the game with an apparent leg injury, though he did return. Cordell Pemsl also left the game with an injury, but he did not return to action. Iowa can ill-afford to lose even more depth with TOURNAMENT SZN right around the corner.
And speaking of TOURNAMENT SZN... this loss doesn't officially kill Iowa's hopes of a Top 4 finish (and a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament), but it certainly puts them on life support. They need Illinois to lose twice this week -- first at Ohio State tomorrow night and then at home against Iowa on Sunday night. Whether the double-bye is on the line or not, though, this loss amps up the pressure for Iowa in Sunday's game against Illinois. Going into the Big Ten Tournament on a two-game losing streak (and having lost three of four) could be a big hit to this team's confidence at the worst possible time. One of the best things about Iowa's play this season has been their ability to respond to bad losses; they've done an excellent job of not letting one tough loss turn into two and they've avoided crushing losing streaks. They're going to need to do that again on Sunday -- in a very hostile environment, against an opponent with plenty to play for. Be ready.
NEXT: Iowa closes out the regular season at Champaign against #24 Illinois (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten) on Sunday (6 PM CT, BTN).