If you took a look at the game thread before this one started you’ll know that my biggest question mark heading into this game was how Purdue would respond after their second loss of the season. Especially after what was the first game where they really looked out of sorts for the vast majority of the game. I was particularly worried about Braden Smith after the way that game at IU ended. He’s just a freshman and sometimes things can just stick with you. You just never know. Well, it turns out no one needed to worry about Braden Smith tonight. Even when the lead was evaporating in the second half it wasn’t because Braden wasn’t doing his part.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG) - This one has to go to Smith. After the guy had the heartbreak of the loss against IU and that turnover on his mind this was a much needed balm to remind himself of the player we all know he is. Smith jumped out to six points early in the first half and never looked back. He was a facilitator, a rebounder, and a scorer. He finished the game with an impressive 24, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Now, if you know anything about Purdue playing Iowa you know the script. You’ve seen it before. Purdue gets up big and then something changes and suddenly the lead dwindles away. Like a Hollywood producer who just wants to get a sequel out this game stuck to the formula. After going up by as much as 21 in the second half suddenly Iowa was chipping away. Purdue began to struggle with that Iowa press and handing Iowa easy turnover after easy turnover, the shooting went cold, and Purdue was making mistake after mistake on defense. That 21 point lead went all the way down to 6 with just over 5:00 minutes to play. As Purdue fans we’re used to this. Doesn’t mean that we were any less nervous.
I also think it’s fair to point out that while Purdue played bad during this stretch Iowa did look good. As Matt Painter likes to point out from time to time, the other team has scholarships too. Everyone in this league has talent it just doesn’t always show itself at the same time. For that 8-9 minutes of basketball in the second half Iowa truly put it all together. Purdue took the punch square on the jaw.
Luckily Purdue responded, as we always knew they would, with a quick 6-0 run over just two minutes to push that lead back up to 12 and put the game out of reach for the Hawkeyes. Purdue would eventually push the lead back up to 14 and walk out of Mackey Arena with an 87-73 victory.
Purdue found themselves up big early thanks to the heroics of Braden Smith and despite a lack of offensive production from...Zach Edey? That can’t be right. Let me check that box score again. Wow I guess so. Edey went into halftime with just four points and eight rebounds. I can’t remember the last time Edey had a half just with four points but Purdue still found a way to go into the half up 38-21. In addition to the stellar play of Smith Purdue’s first half offense was fueled by Caleb Furst going 3-3 for seven points and Mason Gillis continuing his hot shooting at Mackey Arena and going 3-6 from the floor including 2-4 from deep to finish the half with eight points. With Smith chipping in 10 points in the first half Purdue got 25 points from those three who alone outscored Iowa.
In addition to the great play from the JWMPOTG there’s some other quick hits I wanted to point out.
- Purdue found its free throw shooting stroke again after struggling at IU. Purdue only had three attempts in the first half but finished the game 11-12 from the line.
- That Iowa and one that McCaffery was gifted sure didn’t seem like an and one. Apparently continuation is creeping into the NCAA.
- Purdue outrebounded Iowa 43-23. A +20 advantage is just incredible.
- It was nice to see Fletcher Loyer hit more than one three after struggling from deep as of late.
- Pressing Purdue continues to be a key to stay in a game. 17 turnovers tonight and a lot of them came as a result of the Iowa press.
- How can Iowa have such a good press but be so poor at everything else on defense?
- I don’t think I saw any Francon issues here. He mostly kept his cool.
- Despite the slow first half Edey still finished the game with 14 and 14 for a ho-hum double double. Did Nike give him his shoes yet?
With Purdue now sitting at 23-2 overall and 12-2 in conference play they remain in the drivers’s seat for their 25th Big Ten Championship. The Purdue magic number now is three to earn at least a share of the conference title. Every game is important but for now for Purdue there’s no game as important as the next one.