Iowa coach Fran McCaffery talks about the defense on his star guard
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was the first experience of Big Ten Conference basketball for six Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday and it wasn’t exactly one for the scrapbooks.
The scrap heap, maybe.
No. 15 Purdue ran the young Hawkeyes ragged from the get-go and toyed with them throughout an easy 89-67 victory before an announced crowd of 14,804 at Mackey Arena.
Iowa (8-6, 0-1 Big Ten) was so focused on stopping the Boilermakers’ post players early that Purdue simply shot freely from the 3-point arc, making 10-of-17 to build a 26-point lead that was never dented.
“We didn’t play with the necessary poise to beat a ranked team that’s this good. We just didn’t,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“When you’re on the road, you get behind, you start quick-shooting the ball. Then you can’t manage the game. We can survive 15, 16. You can’t be down 24, 25.”
It didn’t help that the Hawkeyes missed all seven of their 3-pointers in the first half, and that star guard Peter Jok turned in a miserable performance with two points and three turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. By that time, Iowa trailed 49-25 and the second half was a formality.
“I thought I took a few tough shots in the beginning. I didn’t let the game come to me,” Jok said.
He finished with 13 points, but needed 15 shots to get them and made only 1 of 7 3-pointers. Jok was averaging a Big Ten-leading 22.6 points per game entering play.
“He’s a tough guard because he’s always moving. In that system, they’re always setting screens for him,” said Purdue’s Dakota Mathias, one of a trio of defenders who made things painful for Jok. “He’s a great shooter, so you always have to be with him. He’s just a tough challenge, and we did a good job on him.”
McCaffery played all 12 of his healthy scholarship players in the first half, desperately seeking some sort of spark. He never found it.
Freshman guard Isaiah Moss started, but was held scoreless.
Freshman forward Tyler Cook returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a broken finger but was noticeably rusty and got into quick foul trouble. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
And freshman forward Cordell Pemsl turned in the sequence that may have best summed up Iowa’s evening, breaking loose for an easy dunk early in the second half, only to bang the ball off the back rim and then receive a technical foul when he hung onto the basket in disbelief.
Sophomore Nicholas Baer sensed that Iowa’s rookies — which included guards Jordan Bohannon and Maishe Dailey and center Ryan Kriener — had a rude awakening to life in the Big Ten.
The freshman also discusses his battle with foul trouble
“That’s part of the growing process. It’s hard to simulate an environment like Purdue if you’ve never played in it,” Baer said.
“So a good learning experience for us, but at the end of the day we’re going to have to play well on the road and we‘re going to have to play better than we did.”
Iowa saw its five-game winning streak ended, opening Big Ten play with arguably its most severe test.
Purdue (12-2, 1-0) has won seven in a row, and had five players reach double figures in scoring. Center Isaac Haas and forward Caleb Swanigan were each limited to two points in the first half as the Hawkeyes swarmed them in the paint, but finished with 17 and 11, respectively.
Freshman guard Carsen Edwards had a game-high 19 points, including the first eight of the game, which prompted a McCaffery timeout just 1:59 in.
“We were focused on their bigs inside. But they did a really nice job of being patient with the zone,” Baer said of the decisive first half. “I think we need to do a little bit better job of applying pressure out on the guards and then if we’re applying pressure, it makes it a little more difficult for them to make an easy decision.”
Jok, Iowa’s lone senior, came away convinced of one thing.
“When they’re playing like that, I think they’re by far one of the top-five best teams in the nation,” he said of Purdue. “I don’t think anyone can beat them if their guards are shooting like that.”
Iowa gets one more chance to find out. Purdue visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena in two weeks.