After winning their previous 5 contests, Purdue’s win streak was snapped in a tough 79-66 loss against Iowa in Mackey Arena.
As odd as it may sound compared to recent years, this was the Boilermaker’s first loss in well over a month. Yes, those games weren’t against the greatest of competition but this year has provided massive improvements already.
Tonight the shots just weren’t falling for Purdue as they struggled mightily to get anything going for a consistent stretch. As a team, the Boilers shot just 36% from the field and 6-23 from three-point range which has been the Achilles heel in losses this season. Katie Gearlds’ offense has worked wonders against the lower-level competition earlier in the year but will take some tweaking to maximize its potential in the insanely competitive Big Ten.
Although Iowa hasn’t played up to their standards of the last few seasons, they have the best player in college basketball by my estimation in Caitlin Clark and another All-American type player in Monika Czinano who just terrorized the Boilers tonight. That lethal duo for the Hawkeyes combined for an eye-popping 51 of 79 points, with no other Iowa player reaching double figures.
That was essentially the difference in this game. Purdue was unable to go bucket for bucket with two of the best players in the country which you can live with to an extent. This team will have to learn how to slow down opposing stars to have a better chance to win in these types of games.
For as much as Rickie Woltman has done this season, there was nothing she could give to Czinano to slow her down and that is one of the main issues for Purdue with Ra’Shaya Kyle still out. If and when those two are able to play together or even a timeshare similar to Trevion Williams and Zach Edey, it will be tough for opposing bigs to have that much success against the Boilermakers.
It wasn’t a one-sided affair as the box score might lead you to believe, but it was clear that this Purdue team was simply outmatched by the skill and players of Iowa. At the 2:22 mark of the second quarter, it was a 28-28 game and the Boilers seemed to be getting into somewhat of a groove, but Iowa closed the half on a 9-2 run and Purdue did not recover enough to make it a tight game again.
Iowa was just a bit better in each quarter to keep stacking on buckets and fend off the Boilermakers, who fought quite hard until the final buzzer. As I said, the box score isn’t going to tell the full story of this one. Purdue had their chances to win but they just couldn’t buy a bucket in key moments of the game. You know it’s a rough one when your best shooter Cassidy Hardin goes only 1-9 from the field for 3 points.
On a positive note, Abbey Ellis and Brooke Moore both stepped up to keep the Boilermakers relatively close tonight. The backcourt duo combined for 32 points on 10-21 shooting and had some good chemistry out there tonight. Moore is now averaging 13.2 points per game which is the most during conference play on the team and has found her niche off the bench which was missing for a stretch to begin the year.
This was a tough one for the Boilermakers, but several things can be taken away from this loss. It is about how this team will bounce back during a quick turnaround against the best team they will probably play all season. As I said after the last stretch with wins over Rutgers and Michigan State, Purdue showed they can beat the fellow middling teams in the conference. The next step is competing in and winning these games against the top tier of the Big Ten, which has yet to be seen.
Next up for the Boilermakers is their biggest game of the season, against Indiana for the Barn Burner Trophy in Mackey. Purdue has their work cut out for them against the No. 6 team in the country. This could be the Boilermakers’ best chance at beating the Hoosiers in terms of the level of talent on the team, but Indiana is a force to be reckoned with. Purdue will look to snap their 5 game losing streak against the Hoosiers on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. from inside Mackey Arena.