WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – This basketball team is one of the deepest in the Big Ten. They just had a two-game winning streak snapped by a ranked team on the road. In their two victories – one at home, the other on the road – they led by at least 20 points in both. And three freshmen are in the starting lineup.
That team? Iowa is the correct answer. So is Purdue. And those teams meet at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Mackey Arena, needing a victory to generate some legitimate NCAA Tourament bubble talk.
Purdue, 3-2 in the Big Ten and 10-8 overall, won at Nebraska and beat West Virginia at home, leading by at least 20 points in each game. On Thursday, the Boilermakers became the first team to lead No. 2 Michigan at halftime this season in Ann Arbor before losing, 68-53.
Iowa, 2-4 in the Big Ten and 13-6 overall, won at Northwestern and beat Wisconsin at home, leading by at least 20 points in both. The Hawkeyes cut a 24-point second-half deficit to four with 90 seconds to play before losing at No. 14 Ohio State Tuesday, 72-63.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery called that comeback “very important and very interesting at the same time. Because you look at the lineup and it wasn’t one that anyone would have predicted. I think it speaks to our versatility in terms of the players we can play at any given time.”
Just one starter, Anthony Clemmons, was on the floor for the start of the
comeback. He was joined by Eric May, Zach McCabe, Gabe Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe.
Minnesota has had 11 different players play in at least 15 games this season. Iowa is second among Big Ten schools with 10. Purdue is at nine.
Iowa has nine players averaging at least 15.5 minutes a game, with 10 players at 9 minutes or more. The last Hawkeye team to do that was the NCAA Sweet 16 team of 1998-99. That team had 10 players average at least 17 minutes a game.
Purdue got off to a slow start this season, winning just four of its first 10 games. But coach Matt Painter’s team has made steady progress since then.
“I said before we played a game, talent’s not an issue,” Painter said. “We were just an immature basketball team. And we’re getting better in that area.”
Painter has gone with a four-guard lineup in recent games, and that has also made the Boilermakers better because they’ve got more perimeter weapons and a freshman point guard, Ronnie Johnson, who can attack on the dribble.
“It stretches the defense and makes them harder to guard,” McCaffery said.
Purdue is just the third unranked team Iowa has faced in seven Big Ten games. According to Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com), Iowa’s strength of schedule since the start of conference play ranks No. 1 nationally.
WHO: Iowa (13-6, 2-4 Big Ten) at Purdue (10-8, 3-2)
WHERE: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
TIPOFF: 2:30 p.m.
TELEVISION: Big Ten Network.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa – Devyn Marble 14.5 ppg; Aaron White 6.2 rpg; Anthony Clemmons 4.1 apg; for Purdue – Terone Johnson 13.3 ppg; A.J. Hammons 6.1 rpg; Ronnie Johnson 3.6 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Iowa has lost five consecutive games at Mackey Arena, and 10 of the last 11 in the series.
ABOUT THE BOILERMAKERS: Purdue is the Big Ten’s second-best rebounding team, and freshman center A.J. Hammons leads the league in blocked shots at 1.9.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Iowa had an 11-point first-half lead and a 36-31 halftime advantage at Mackey Arena last season, but Purdue rallied for a 75-68 victory.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball