By Mike Jones on December 22, 2020 at 2:40 pm
© Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC
© Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC


TIME 8:00 pm CT
WHERE Carver Hawkeye Arena
RADIO Learfield Affiliates
STREAM Fox Sports Live
LINE Iowa -6.5
KENPOM Iowa -7
6-1 RECORD 6-2
0-0 CONF. 1-0
119.5 (1st) OFF. EFF. 110.7 (20th)
95.3 (80th) DEF. EFF. 92.1 (37th)
14.4 (11th) POSS. 18 (270th)
57.9 (12th) eFG% 55.3 (45th)

It was only a few weeks ago that Purdue put together a collapse against Miami that rivaled Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot. Down 32-12 late in the first half, the Hurricanes only managed to score a measly 14 points and trailed the Boilermakers 32-14. The Hurricanes proceeded to finish the game on a 31-10 run, outscoring Purdue 44-22 in the second half and winning 58-54. It’s the type of loss that can have you questioning how good your team is.

Purdue responded to that loss by beating #20 Ohio State and handling the surprisingly mediocre Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Crossroads Classic. Now, they sit at 6-2 (1-0) with their only other loss being to an NCAA Tournament-quality Clemson squad. They responded to some adversity and now they’ve got to deal with Garzilla.

Let’s start with some good news. First off, Evan Boudreaux, who scored a combined 32 points against the Hawkeyes last season, is gone. That means Iowa doesn’t have to worry about getting roasted from deep by a guy who looks like he just got laughed off the court at the Y. Also gone is Matt Haarms, the 7’3". 250-pound giant sixth man who transferred to BYU.

The bad news is that guards Eric Hunter Jr. and Sasha Stefanovic are back and Haarms was replaced by Zach Edey, a somehow even bigger guy, checking in at 7’4", 285 pounds. Hunter leads the team in points per game (14.3), assists per game (3.8), and steals per game (1.8) and is fresh off an 18-point game against Notre Dame, where he shot 4-7 from deep. Hunter isn’t the most efficient shooter but he will get his looks and he’s surpassed double-digit scoring in each of his last four games.

Sasha Stefanovic is unquestionably the most dangerous shooter on the team and, in my opinion, Purdue’s best chance to win the game. He leads the team in eFG% (.714) and 3P% (.520) which is bad for the Hawkeyes considering he also has a team-high 50 three-point attempts, making 26 of them. In their 104-68 loss to the Boilermakers last season, Purdue went an unbelievable 19-34 from deep. Thankfully, Boudreaux isn’t around to contribute, but Stefanovic is back and he was responsible for five of those three-pointers. He can and will roast Iowa from deep.

Garza expects to match up against 6’10", 265-pound forward Trevion Williams and could also see Zach Edey off the bench. Williams is Purdue’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game, and has been on a tear as of late, scoring 60 points in his last three games. 6’6" freshman forward Mason Gillis and 6’5" guard Brandon Newman close out the starting lineup, with Newman being the team’s second-best three-point shooter and Gillis being the most efficient shooter not named Sasha Stefanovic.

I could continue but honestly, this is like any Purdue team we’ve seen over the past 10ish years. One decent big man, another oversized big man, and some super annoying/talented guards that could combust you from deep. Purdue is 31st in the nation in three-point percentage, making 38.8 of their attempts. Against Notre Dame they were lights out, going 14-28 from deep. That’s bad news for an Iowa team that ranks 169th in the nation in three-point defense, allowing opponents to make 33.3% of their shots.

So that’s what it boils down to. Iowa has to defend the perimeter because Garza will score. He will get his 20+ points. He’ll probably get a double double without any heartburn. But it’s not the non-conference anymore. He cannot do it alone and guys like Jordan Bohannon, Connor McCaffery, and CJ Fredrick have to step it up. Bless Bohannon but he has scored a whopping eight points in his last two games, going 2-10 from three and had four turnovers against Gonzaga (saying nothing of his defense). McCaffery scored three against the Zags. Fredrick had eight but it wasn’t what we’ll call an efficient performance.

Iowa cannot solely rely on Garza for offense in the Big Ten, nor can Garza guard the entire perimeter. To beat the Boilers, they’ll have to shut them down from outside. Fran has typically not had a lot of success against Matt Painter, even during the rare occasions that Iowa has had the “better” teams. If the Boilers get hot from the outside, you can expect that misfortune to continue.

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