The Iowa men’s basketball team has to find ways to pick up some wins late in the season – even if it shoots 31 percent from the floor.
In a game that will set offenses back a few decades, the Hawkeyes put on a defensive clinic at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in handing Purdue a 58-48 loss. It was the fewest points an Iowa team has allowed since allowing 46 points in 1983.
“I mean, we played phenomenal defense the entire game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Purdue always plays good defense. They make it hard for you to score. So, this one was more about good defense than bad offense.”
Iowa did not make a bucket in the final 13 minutes of the first half but still maintained a seven-point lead at the break. The Hawkeyes hit just 16-of-51 from the floor, but out-rebounded the Boilermakers, connected on 21-of-27 and only turned it over nine times despite not having the services of freshman point guard Mike Gesell, who missed the game with a foot injury.
“We had opportunities in that stretch,” McCaffery said of the long scoring drought of the first half. “We had some clean looks at it. We were still running. We got the ball to the right people. We just didn't make them.
“When you don't turn the ball over, a lot of times people only look at your point guard position. We've got other short-handed players. Our wings can handle the ball, our posts can handle the ball. If you want to be a running team you have to have multiple ball handlers, and that's what we do. You look at it, (Devyn) Marble had three turnovers, everybody else had two or less.”
McCaffery did not want to elaborate on Gesell’s injury but did say it did not occur in the Nebraska game and it was something he had been working through for a while. He shot down that it was a stress fracture injury and just said Gesell hurt his foot.
“He hurt his foot. That's all I'm going to say. I don't want to get into all the particulars,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes improved to 14-2 at home this season and is now 25-0 over the past three years in games they have allowed fewer than 60 points.
Sophomore Aaron White and Marble each had 18 points to lead Iowa, which is now 18-10 on the year and 7-8 in league play. The Hawkeyes are now 9-1 this year when White, who also had a team-high nine rebounds, scores at least 16 points. Marble also had a team-high four assists.
No other Hawkeye scored more than Josh Oglesby’s five but Melsahn Basabe pulled down six boards, while Eric May had five boards, a big jumper in the second half and huge block in the closing minutes.
Four Boilermakers reached double-figures but the rest of the team had just two points. Donnie Hale led Purdue (13-15, 6-9) with 13 points off the bench, while A.J. Hammons had 12 points and nine boards as a reserve. Purdue had 27 bench points in the loss. D.J. Byrd had 11 points, while Ronnie Johnson added 10 points, six assists and six turnovers.
The Boilermakers shot 36 percent from the floor in the game but only attempted 10 free throws and turned it over 16 times.
The Hawkeyes jumped out to an 11-4 lead early following back-to-back 3-pointers by Marble and White. The lead was 23-16 at the break after White hit four straight free throws.
Iowa pushed the margin to 30-18 early in the second half after Marble began the stanza with five straight points. Purdue got within six at the 2:17 mark of the second half but Oglesby buried a 3 with 1:43 to play to put Iowa back up by nine. Oglesby was starting in place of Gesell.
“I'm just so proud of him hitting that shot,” McCaffery said. “Not a lot of guys could do that, come in in that situation and just drill it for you. I couldn't be happier for him.”
The Hawkeyes then connected on 6-of-8 free throws in the final 55 seconds to seal another win in Iowa City. Iowa’s largest lead was 14 points.
Gesell is expected to return for the Big Ten Tournament. For now, McCaffery said other guys are going to have to step up.
“We're not a team that is going to play seven guys and one guy goes down, now what do we do,” he said. “It's really an example of, OK, we feel bad for Mike, we're going to get him back, we'll be happy when he comes back, but right now we've got other guys that can play, let's go play.”
The Hawkeyes have won four of their last five and will travel to face No. 1 Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. The Hoosiers are coming off a road loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.
Iowa ends the season with consecutive home games against Illinois (next Tuesday) and Nebraska (a week from Saturday).