Iowa figured out a way to beat Purdue.
And the best way was just out-Purdue the Boilermakers.
Tuesday’s 70-55 win for the No. 4 Hawkeyes was a lesson in defense and rebounding, something Purdue does so well and something the Boilermakers have done oh-so-well over Iowa in recent years.
Purdue had won five of the last six in this series, including the last four, by smothering the Hawkeyes. The Boilermakers’ average margin of victory in those wins was 21.2 points, and they always found a way to disrupt the Iowa offense.
This time it was Iowa putting on a clinic of disruption. The Hawkeyes had a 37-35 rebounding edge and held the Boilermakers to 39.7 percent shooting and their second lowest scoring output of the season.
“We outrebounded them, which is hard to do,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Purdue is always a terrific rebounding team. They run a lot of stuff and they execute extremely well. Always have.
“So we had to stay connected and we had to keep the effort and intensity. So I think you look at what the game plan was coming in, you know, it was defense and rebounding, and it was probably our best effort of the year.”
Purdue has been almost plus-10 rebounding this season, but the Hawkeyes seemed to be in just the right spot.
“It was an impressive win for us, and an impressive effort for us in a lot of areas,” said center Luka Garza, who, along with forward Joe Wieskamp, led Iowa with nine rebounds. “It was just a good effort, all around.”
The Hawkeyes kept the Boilermakers from getting into any offensive rhythm. They led by as much as 15 points in the second half, and the closest Purdue would get in the final minutes was 62-55 with 3:53 to play.
“Just a lack of execution,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said when asked why the Boilermakers couldn’t get points. “Just a lot of little things, whether that’s being able to step up and get a catch, or screening, or running a play right. Our execution wasn’t very good. We have to do a better job of getting into position to get quality shots.”
“We were playing from behind today,” Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic said. “It was a struggle to get going.”
Asked if this was his team’s best defensive effort over the last couple of seasons, McCaffery said, “Probably, because we played a really good team that executes extremely well that has athletes and shooters and post players. I thought our ball pressure was the best it's been.”
Garza was dominating. He finished with 22 points, his 17th consecutive Big Ten game of 20 or more points, the conference’s longest streak since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson’s 16 in 1987.
Garza was 7-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-8 in 3-pointers.
“We had a slow adjustment at times, and he knocked down some shots,” Painter said. “He’s a fantastic player. He’s worked so hard. I love seeing guys develop and improve and work hard.”
Garza moved into third place on Iowa’s career scoring list at 1,786 points, passing Greg Stokes (1,768 points) and Acie Earl (1,779).
“I think as I look at some of the guys I've coached over the years, and I've coached some of the really good ones,” McCaffery said. “The thing that I'm impressed with Luka the most is who he's doing it against, and recognizing that every team is scheming completely to stop him.”
Wieskamp also showed toughness against a Purdue defense that has often given him fits. He finished with 17 points, making 6-of-13 shots.
“I think what this game shows is the character of Joe Wieskamp,” McCaffery said. “We said, OK, we didn't do some things we should have done on Saturday (in the 99-88 loss to top-ranked Gonzaga) that we have to correct and learn from that and make the necessary changes, and they did.
“And Joe was right at the forefront of all that. Very proud of him.”
“I think we learned our lesson from Gonzaga,” Wieskamp said. “We knew that was an opportunity, and we didn’t take advantage of it. We had a lot of mistakes defensively, in transition. I think we really watched the film, took that criticism to heart, and really focused on ways in which we can improve, realizing we’re a team that can score the ball with anybody in the country. But at the end of the day we have to get stops.
“I think our defensive intensity all night was terrific. Everyone collectively, we were locked in.”
It’s how Purdue has owned Iowa in the past.
And it was how the Hawkeyes got even.
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