By Carter Benson
8 P.M. CT, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA – B1G Network
Spread: Iowa (-7)
No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1)
The Iowa Hawkeyes will officially commence conference play with this Tuesday night showdown against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Hawks are coming off of a frustrating 99-88 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga where lackluster defense and rebounding were the arrow to Iowa’s achilles heel. Let’s not forget to mention that Gonzaga was shooting 29.1 percent from three up until that game last Saturday, in which the Bulldogs went 13/26 from beyond the arch. The zone defense is simply not working for coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes. A team with the average athletic ability of a 40-year-old Larry Bird just cannot manage the rotations and close outs that a high level zone defense requires. Breakout Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs solidified this notion with his seven three pointers in only ten attempts against the Hawks. Iowa, to put it simply, just played a bad basketball game. The Hawkeyes shot a measly 4/22 from deep but managed to keep the game to 11 points with senior Luka Garza putting up his typical numbers of 30 points and 10 boards. On top of awful shooting splits, the Hawkeyes were out-rebounded 49 to 37 and allowed for 16 offensive boards. The silver lining to this loss to Gonzaga? Iowa has proven they can compete with high level teams at their best and may have just found their point guard of the future.
Sophomore guard Joe Toussaint put up a season high 14 points against Gonzaga, but the numbers don’t paint the full picture. Toussaint’s defensive presence around the perimeter allowed for clutch stops in the last few minutes of this loss as the Hawks tried to forge a comeback. His fast feet on an otherwise unathletic team creates offensive opportunities on the pick and roll with Garza who is averaging 29.3 points per game (number one in all of college basketball). Expect Toussaint to get more minutes in the weeks to come. Junior guard Joe Wieskamp fits into that same category as Toussaint: a dynamic player on both ends of the court. Averaging nearly two steals a game in the Hawkeyes last three appearances and 15.9 points per game, Wieskamp has earned the title of number two option for Iowa. He is shooting 46.9 percent from deep this season which gives the Hawkeyes the versatility they need on offense. If you can’t get a bucket in the paint from your Wooden Award frontrunner in Garza, dish it out to Wieskamp for a wide open three.
The Hawkeyes are off to a solid start this season with their only loss coming to top ranked Gonzaga. Iowa is leading all Division I teams in scoring at 98.7, so expect a lot of points to be scored against the Boilermakers tonight.
Purdue Boilermakers (6-2)
The Boilermakers are off to a steady start on the season at six wins and two losses. One of these wins came to No. 23 Ohio State in their first conference game of the season. After losses to Miami and Clemson earlier this year, the Boilermakers need a statement win over the fourth ranked Hawkeyes to solidify themselves as true competitors in the Big Ten. Purdue’s 67-60 win over Ohio State should have Iowa keeping their guard up. There’s a higher risk for an underdog K.O. than most Iowa supporters would lead on. Junior forward Trevon Williams packs a heavy punch leading the team in rebounds at 9.8 and sitting second in scoring at 13.8. In their win over the Buckeyes, Williams nearly put up a triple double at 16 points, 9 boards and 8 assists. It will be a struggle for the Hawkeyes’ lazy defense to try to contain the 6-foot-10 jack of all trades style forward. In fact, Williams has either scored or assisted on 44 percent of the Boilermakers’ total buckets in the last 3 games. Freshman center Zach Edey will be quite the interesting match-up against Garza. Edey stands at 7-foot-4 and serves as an intimidating presence in the post averaging 11.3 points and just under one block per game. If Edey is Manute Bol, then Junior guard Sasha Stefanovic is his ‘89 Warriors teammate Chris Mullin. Stefanovic is shooting lights out this year at a 52 percent clip in 50 attempts. The Hawkeyes perimeter defense will need to be on lock in order to keep this honorary fourth member of Run TMC in check.
Purdue is undefeated when they hold their opponents to below 41.3 percent from the field this season. The Boilermakers are a great defensive team that have versatility in their all over the court, along with an offense that holds its own against higher level defenses. Playing the highest scoring team in college basketball tonight will be a true test to how well this defense will hold up throughout the course of this season. Defensive pressure and efficient scoring from Edey and Williams will be needed in order to secure the win over Iowa and propel the Boilermakers to a 2-0 conference start.
Analysis & Best Bet
The Hawkeyes and Boilermakers met twice last year resulting in Purdue wins in both times, but Iowa is a more refined team than they were last season. Returning most of their players, the Hawks will surely remember those last two visits. The score of this game will come down to Iowa’s three point shooting and how well the Boilermakers can perform on the defensive side. Purdue has great scoring potential in Trevon Williams and top option Eric Hunter (14.3 ppg.), while Iowa has the nation’s leading scorer in Luka Garza (29.3) and a core of great three point shooters at their disposal. The Hawkeyes are out for revenge after a devastating loss to Gonzaga while Purdue is out to solidify themselves as competitors in the Big Ten after a great win at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes are the top scoring team in the nation and are playing at home, so expect them to come out the gates firing. Putting up 88 points against the top-ranked team in the nation is a performance that deserves to be taken seriously. The Boilermakers will need to play their best defensive game of the year to stop Garza and the Hawks.
This isn’t an Iowa-Purdue football game, but it should bring the same energy: lots of words thrown back and forth with a lot of emotion. Bottom line, expect an electric, high-scoring game that will reveal a lot about the future of both teams this season.