Howe: Script Holds in Hawkeyes’ Blowout Loss to Purdue

January 20, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

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FRAN MCCAFFERY POSTGAME

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – If you missed Saturday’s Iowa-Purdue game, it turned out as expected. A really good team played one that’s struggling and the outcome was lopsided.

There was no repeat of what happened when Top 5 Ohio State came to Kinnick Stadium during November. These Hawkeyes didn’t rise up like their football counterparts and shock the college sports world. Nope, this one went according to script.

The third-ranked Boilermakers steamrolled reeling Iowa, 87-64, in a game, if you can believe it, that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Purdue led by 37 four minutes into the second half.

It was like watching naked people in a movie with your parents – uncomfortable and embarrassing. It had to be far worse being on the losing end of things.

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Coach Fran McCaffery and his Hawkeyes talked after the game, as they have throughout their 1-7 Big Ten start, about turning things around. Saturday’s performance made it much harder to believe that possible.

They couldn’t take advantage of a nearly sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena that was emotionally charged for a tribute to the late Chris Street. Fans never had a chance. An 18-0 run put the visitors ahead 24-6 midway through the first half.

Iowa was, quite simply, outclassed by the Boilermakers. The Hawkeyes were trying. They were just severely overmatched.

Purdue knocked down an astonishing 11 of 16 three-point attempts in building a 51-20 halftime lead. The visitors enjoyed the same wide-open looks many Hawkeye opponents have this season. They finished the day with 20 treys, matching a Big Ten record and establishing a new program mark.

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It’s an extreme example of what can happen against the conference’s worst defense. It should be surprising.

The league’s worst offense, Rutgers, shot 53.7 percent from the floor, including 43.8 on threes, in demolishing the Hawkeyes on Wednesday. Four of Iowa’s last five opponents have shot over 50 percent from the floor. The lone exception was Illinois, which was at 48.6 in a overtime loss.

The Hawkeyes once again looked helpless on defense. Purdue shot just four free throws because the Hawkeyes weren’t close enough to contest.

McCaffery once again talked about offensive deficiencies. Sure, they were there.

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However, trying to play offense from way down early, as Iowa has throughout the conference season, invites trouble. Guys start forcing shots trying to make up the difference. Patience goes out the window because of urgency.

The Boilermakers exposed all of Iowa’s defensive weaknesses. They moved the ball well, penetrated off the dribble, showed good spacing and took open shots. It looked easy.

The Hawkeyes needed Purdue to be off its game, like the Buckeyes were back in November. Instead, they allowed a good team to play well.

Ten regular games remain for Iowa to gain some traction in what is clearly now a rebuilding year. It starts Tuesday with a home contest against another of the Big Ten’s lower division teams, Wisconsin.

It’s winnable but the Hawkeyes’ confidence has to be shaken. It’s not easy plowing ahead through adversity. You wonder if a bad season is about to get worse.

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