Almost two months ago, in West Lafayette, Iowa fell behind big against a Purdue team that shot the lights out in the first half. Iowa rallied in the second half behind some timely turnovers on defense and a torrid shooting stretch of their own, before falling late. Tonight, in Iowa City, Iowa... fell behind big against a Purdue team that shot the lights out in the first half. Then Iowa... rallied in the second half behind some timely turnovers on defense and a (brief) hot-shooting stretch of their own, but again fell short.
Second verse, same as the first.
Sometimes it's challenging to isolate the main reason(s) why a team wins or loses a game. And sometimes it's abundantly obvious. Tonight felt like the latter; Purdue made a lot of shots in this game, while Iowa missed a lot of shots. It's not really much more complicated than that.
For the game, Purdue shot 61% from the floor (30/49) and a molten 59% (13/22) from 3-point range. They were (markedly) better at making 3-pointers (13/22) than they were free throws (10/22). There wasn't much difference in their performance from half-to-half, either -- they made 64% of their field goals (58% of their 3-point tries) in the first half and 57% of their shots (60% of their 3-pointers) in the second half. When they got shots up, they went in more often than not.
Meanwhile, Iowa endured yet another sludgy offensive game. They shot just 38% from the field (24/64) and a dismal 30% (8/27) from 3-point range. Those 3-point numbers are slightly skewed by some late-game heaves as Iowa desperately tried to cut into Purdue's lead, but those misses didn't really change the picture for Iowa's outside shooting much in this game; it stunk. Iowa was bad in the first half (38% from the floor, 23% from 3-point range) and they were bad overall in the second half (37% from the field, 36% from deep).
I say "overall" because there were stretches of competence for Iowa from the field in the second half, particularly in the early going. Iowa used an 11-0 run to cut Purdue's lead down to seven and chopped the lead to five points and four points on a handful of occasions; unfortunately, they were never able to get it any closer than that. They never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead -- hell, they never even had the ball with a chance to make it a one-possession game in the second half. That was mainly because every time Iowa hit a big shot to cut the lead to 4-5 points, Purdue had a response, usually with a clutch 3-pointer of their own. Those threes gave the Boilermakers breathing room and kept Iowa at bay. Eventually, Iowa stopped even getting it as close as 4-5 points and the Purdue lead hovered around 10 points for most of the final 10 minutes.
Looking at the shooting numbers, it doesn't look like this should have even been a 10-point game -- Purdue absolutely cooked Iowa on 2s and 3s in the game. So how did Iowa keep it close (or at least close-ish)? Free throws, turnovers, and offensive rebounds. Iowa made 17/18 free throws in this game, while the free throw line was the one spot on the floor where Purdue couldn't make shots in this game, as they went just 10/22. Turnovers were another key advantage for Iowa; they forced 15 Purdue turnovers (against just 9 giveaways of their own) and turned those gaffes into 18 points. Purdue got just 9 Iowa turnovers and only managed to convert them into 5 points. Finally, while Purdue out-rebounded Iowa overall (36-31), Iowa did have the edge on the offensive glass (14-9) and turned that into a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points. (Of course, one of the reasons Iowa was able to get more offensive boards was simple volume; Iowa was missing a lot more shots than Purdue, which gave them more offensive rebounding opportunities.) Still, even with those advantages, Iowa ended up losing the game by 10 and it wasn't really a particularly close 10-point loss, either, minus a few thrilling minutes in the second half.
On an individual basis, Keegan and Kris Murray showed out again. Keegan Murray missed over 11 minutes in the first half because of a stint in two-foul jail, but he finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, albeit on 4/11 shooting. 12 of his 14 points came in the second half. Kris Murray had a team-high 23 points and 5 rebounds on 6/15 shooting. 17 of his 23 points came in the second half. The Murrays had 29 of Iowa's 40 points in the second half and Iowa was at its best all night with both of them on the floor, stretching Purdue's defense. Perhaps Iowa wouldn't have been 15 points at halftime if Keegan hadn't sat the final 11+ minutes of the half with two fouls; we'll never know!
Patrick McCaffery was the only other Hawkeye in double figures with 11 points and 4 rebounds on 5/9 shooting. Joe Toussaint had 8 points and 3 assists, while Jordan Bohannon had 6 points. Outside of Kris Murray, Iowa's bench had 9 points on 4/15 shooting. Woof.
Iowa's defense, particularly the three-quarter court press, got them back in the game at West Lafayette and it paid some dividends in this game as well. But Iowa's defense was also pretty feast-or-famine in this game; if they didn't force a turnover, Purdue generally was able to thoroughly dissect them in the half-court and get open look after open look. If Purdue just takes care of the ball a bit better and makes a more reasonable number of free throws, this game would have been much closer to a 20-point #BEATEMDOWN than the kinda-sorta close-ish game that it was for stretches of the second half. I don't think there were a lot of positives for Iowa to look at on defense in this game, but Purdue also ranks first nationally in offensive efficiency, so they make a lot of teams look bad on defense. The defense needs to get better, sure, but it will also help to play some teams that don't have a devastating one-two punch of talented big men, a potential Top 10 NBA Draft pick, and a host of lights-out three-point shooters.
My bigger worry for Iowa is (somewhat surprisingly) on the offensive end, where they've looked in a funk for the last few games. Neither the Penn State win nor this loss were as absolutely diabolical as the Rutgers game a week ago (not much could be that dire), but Iowa's half-court offense has really struggled to find consistent production in their sets of late. If Iowa's not able to force turnovers and get out in transition or get to the free throw line, they've really struggled to score points and had some long fallow periods on the offensive end. Improving that probably needs to be a top priority for Iowa over the next few games.
NEXT: Iowa takes on Penn State (8-9 overall, 3-6 Big Ten) for the second time in three games, this time in State College, PA, on Monday, January 31 (6 PM CT, BTN).