Iowa sophomore point guard Mike Gesell was in no mood to critique his team’s 83-76 victory over Purdue on Sunday.
It didn’t matter to him that Iowa blew a 13-point halftime lead.
It didn’t matter that Iowa shot just 43.3 percent from the field or that Purdue had a 40-33 advantage on the boards and surpassed its Big Ten per-game scoring average by eight points.
The only thing that mattered to Gesell was that Iowa broke its three-game losing streak.
“A win’s a win,” Gesell said. “In the Big Ten, no win is easy. Every team is going to battle you every night and you’re going to get their best shot every night. So I’ll take any win in the Big Ten.”
Gesell helped secure the victory by making 5-of-6 free throws in the final 41.7 seconds. Purdue coach Matt Painter instructed his players to foul Gesell, who entered Sunday’s game making just 64.3 percent of his free throws, but the plan backfired.
Painter didn’t want his players to foul Iowa senior guard Devyn Marble, who entered Sunday’s game shooting 70.0 percent from the free throw line.
“I was trying to extend the game,” Painter said. “(Gesell) had already missed one. And so I was hoping he’d (make) one out of two or maybe miss both and now we’re at one possession with the basketball and we can dictate more. Obviously, that didn’t work.”
Iowa improved to 20-9 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten with Sunday’s victory, which was played before an announced crowd of 15,400 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Purdue lost its fourth game in a row and fell to 15-14 overall and 5-11 in the conference.
Iowa’s next game is Thursday against Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., where the Hawkeyes haven’t won since 1993.
Gesell was determined to make his free throws, knowing that Painter had instructed his players to foul him.
“I felt a little bit disrespected, but at the same time, I had already missed one in the game,” said Gesell, who finished with 15 points and has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games. “I haven’t been shooting well this year. But at the same time, I view myself as a very good free throw shooter.”
Marble led four Iowa players in double figures with 21 points and moved past Jess Settles for seventh place on Iowa’s all-time scoring list with 1,630 points.
Marble converted a conventional 3-point play to expand Iowa’s lead to 75-70 with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining. That was Iowa’s final basket of the game, but the Hawkeyes compensated by making 9-of-11 free throws down the stretch.
Iowa also came through on defense, holding Purdue scoreless on eight consecutive possessions after the Boilermakers had taken a 64-60 lead midway through the second half.
Iowa’s defense had been a liability in the previous two games as Indiana and Minnesota torched the Hawkeyes for 93 and 95 points, respectively.
“We did have a little stretch where we struggled a little bit when they got that four-point lead,” Marble said of Sunday’s game. “We just picked it up defensively and this time we were able to get those stops that we needed.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was proud of his team for persevering at the end.
“I think for us it was important to have to fight the way we did,” McCaffery said. “We had to take care of the ball. We had to guard. We had to make free throws. We had to be intelligent.”
Iowa only committed five turnovers, including just one in the first half, while Purdue had 16 turnovers.
Senior forward Zach McCabe made two free throws to even the score at 16-16 with 11:01 left in the first half. His free throws triggered a 10-2 scoring run for the Hawkeyes that was capped by Jarrod Uthoff’s rim-rattling, two-handed dunk with 9:42 left before halftime, giving Iowa a 20-16 lead.
Iowa closed the first half with a 15-5 scoring run and led 50-37 at halftime. The run started with back-to-back layups by Gesell and Marble. Both layups came in transition following a Purdue turnover.
Marble scored nine points in the last 2:50 of the first half. His fade-away 3-pointer from the right baseline expanded Iowa’s lead to 46-37 with 1:01 left in the first half. He made another basket about 20 seconds later to give Iowa its first double-digit lead in the game at 48-37.
The momentum didn’t stay with Iowa for very long, though, as Purdue started the second half with a 12-2 scoring run. Purdue scored on its first six possessions in the second half.
The Boilermakers also scored seven points in a row and were leading 64-60 when Iowa sophomore center Adam Woodbury made a basket with 9:15 remaining. Junior forward Aaron White followed Woodbury’s basket with a 3-pointer to give Iowa a 65-64 lead with 8:07 remaining.
Iowa never trailed again.
“There is not going to be an easy night on any night in the Big Ten,” said junior guard Josh Oglesby, who finished with 11 points, including a 3-point basket that expanded Iowa’s lead to 72-68 with 3:33 remaining. “As you can see, this year has been crazy. A win’s a win.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball