Sometimes you're the foot and sometimes you're the ass getting kicked by the foot. But sometimes you're the banana peel almost tripping up the foot. Iowa did not pull off what would have been their biggest upset in several years over #2 Purdue on Friday night -- but they came closer than virtually anyone anticipated, losing just 77-70 in West Lafayette. Losses are never easy to take, but there are plenty of positives that Iowa can take away from this setback.
This game looked plenty challenging for Iowa before tip-off, given Purdue's overall high quality, the excellence of their offense this season, and the fact that the game was in West Lafayette, which was been the site of many a Hawkeye horror, especially in recent years (Iowa's average margin of defeat in their previous visits to West Lafayette: 24 ppg). And that was before we found out just ahead of tip-off that Keegan Murray would be unavailable due to an ankle injury. Murray rolled his ankle earlier in the week when his foot came down on top of his brother Kris' foot; after a brief exit, Keegan was able to return and finish out that game for Iowa, but his ankle must have gotten sore in the meantime. Post-game, Fran did say that he thought Murray might be able to play in Iowa's next game, at home against Illinois on Monday.
So Iowa was without the services of the nation's leading scorer, playing the team soon to be ranked #1 in the nation and it ended up being... no problem? Sort of! A furious 11-0 run by Iowa late in the game cut the lead to just two (70-68) with just over three minutes to play. Iowa never had the opportunity to get the ball with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, though. On the next possession, Purdue missed a shot, but got a jump ball and then an offensive rebound before eventually Mason Gillis drew a foul and converted both free throws. Joe Toussaint answered immediately with a layup to cut the lead to just two again (72-70) -- unfortunately those were the last points Iowa would score in the game. They missed their last seven shots of the game, while Purdue did just enough to extend their lead and eventually win, 77-70.
Neither Iowa nor Purdue shot well in the first half, but the Hawkeyes were especially frigid from the field, making just 8/30 (27%) of their shots. Purdue was 10/24 (42%) from the floor. The big difference in the first half was free throws, though; Iowa was called for 16 (!) personal fouls in the opening 20 minutes (compared to just 8 against Purdue), which led to Purdue attempting 21 free throws (they made 16 of those attempts). By comparison, Iowa was only 7/9 at the free throw line. Purdue gradually built their lead out to double digits and got it as high as 17, though a 6-2 run by Iowa at the end of the half cut it down to 13 points.
Tony Perkins gave Iowa an immense boost off the bench in the first half, scoring a team-high 12 points on 4/6 shooting (1/1 3FG) and 3/3 at the line. He had nearly half of Iowa's 26 points before the break and without his efforts, Iowa would have been in a far bigger hole than the 13-point deficit (39-26) they faced at halftime. In fact, he outscored all of Iowa's starters (12-10) in the opening half.
The Purdue lead hovered around 8-12 points for the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Iowa and Purdue traded baskets and mini-runs. But an 11-1 run gave Purdue a 19-point lead with 10 minutes to play and things were seeming pretty grim for the good guys. Iowa kept chipping away, but the lead was still 13 (70-57) with under five minutes to go. But then Joe Toussaint drained a jumper and Purdue missed the front end of a one-and-one on their next possession. Filip Rebraca split a pair of free throws. And then the Iowa defense entered havoc mode -- their press forced turnovers on three straight plays (a dribbling violation, a bad pass, and a 10-second violation) and they scored immediately after all three turnovers, capped off by a 3-pointer from Kris Murray that cut the lead to 70-68. In the span of 1:30, Iowa had gone from down 13 to down just two, all on the backs of... their defense? Alas, the comeback bid ended there -- Purdue stopped turning the ball over on every possession and Iowa wasn't able to make any more shots the rest of the game. But still -- they turned Mackey from a madhouse into a mausoleum for a few moments and I don't think anyone honestly expected Iowa to be down just two on the road at Purdue with three minutes to play.
Iowa shot much better in the second half, draining 17/32 (53%) of their shots in that half (Purdue made 11/26 shots, or 42% of their tries). The free throw disparity from the first half disappeared as well; Purdue was 11/16 at the line, but Iowa went 8/13 at the stripe. The biggest difference, shooting-wise, was 3-pointers -- Iowa was only 2/8 from deep in the second half, while Purdue was 5/10. For the game, Iowa finished 5/21. while Purdue was 8/19. Iowa won't win a lot of games this year (especially on the road) making just five 3-pointers.
Tony Perkins' hot hand from the first half cooled off after the break -- he had just two points on 1/5 shooting -- but Patrick McCaffery picked up the load, with 12 points (on 4/10 shooting, 0/3 3FG) and four rebounds after halftime. Iowa also got 9 points (4/4 shooting) and two rebounds from Kris Murray, as well as 7 points (3/4 shooting) and 4 assists from Joe Toussaint. And in a huge shocker, Iowa got some excellent minutes from Josh Ogundele off the bench -- he had 7 points (3/4 shooting) and 5 rebounds in just over 10 minutes of action. Considering Ogundele had played 18 minutes combined this season prior to last night and scored all of three points, I'd say no one saw that performance coming from him. But it was a very welcome surprise and hopefully a very promising sign for his future.
Overall, three Iowa players finished in double figures -- Patrick McCaffery with 15 points, Tony Perkins with 14 points, and Kris Murray with 12 points. Iowa also got 7 points apiece from Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis, and Josh Ogundele. Ogundele and McCaffery each had a team-high five rebounds, while Toussaint had four assists to lead the team. In the absence of Keegan Murray, several guys stepped up and contributed, which was excellent to see. Losing always sucks, but this loss stings a lot less than most, given the opponent and the circumstances. Iowa fought their asses off against an excellent opponent in a extremely hostile environment; we can't ask for a whole lot more than that.
NEXT: Iowa returns home to host Illinois (6-2, 1-0) on Monday, December 6 (6 PM CT, FS1).