No. 17 Hawkeyes try to make sense of a blistering loss at Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ryan Kriener watched his Iowa basketball team fall behind by 15 points in the opening 4 minutes Wednesday as the decibel level rose in Mackey Arena.
The deficit, and the noise, just kept growing.
Iowa trailed by 25 at halftime, and by a whopping 36 points by the time the game mercifully ended for the visitors.
Purdue 104, Iowa 68. This was the most lopsided loss the Hawkeyes have suffered in 121 meetings with the Boilermakers, surpassing a 107-72 shellacking here in 1975.
Kriener, a reserve center, is the lone senior who has been a member of this year’s team for all four seasons. The result left him seething.
“I kind of had flashbacks to my sophomore year. That happened a lot that year. We weren’t very good,” Kriener said of that 14-19 season that included 10 losses by double-digit figures.
“And we’re not going that way, I’ll tell you that much. We’ve got too much fight. We got beat up (Wednesday), and that’s not happening with this group.”
It was startling to see No. 17 Iowa (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten Conference) look so helpless against a Purdue team that was averaging only 67 points per game. The Hawkeyes had won six of their past seven games and entered with legitimate chances at a Big Ten title, just one game behind the leaders in the standings.
That’s why Kriener felt the need to speak to his team afterward.
“My main message is, ‘We’ve got to be better. We can’t come in to a road environment, especially in the Big Ten like that, and come out flat,’” Kriener said after scoring nine points off the bench.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he was the first one who should shoulder the blame after Iowa’s poorest performance of the year. The Hawkeyes put up little fight after falling behind 17-2.
But he also felt his players, for the first time this season, lost their composure.
That leaves him with the difficult task of asking them to be self-reflective without beating themselves up over one bad outcome.
“I think you have to be honest with yourself. ‘Did I give the best effort? Could I have done better?’” McCaffery said. “But you can’t let that linger. You can’t keep talking about it. OK, it’s one game. We got our ears pinned back. You’ve got to grow and you’ve got to be tougher in the next week. That’s what this league is.”
Iowa next hosts Nebraska at 5 p.m. Saturday. Then it’s back on the road at Indiana and Minnesota next week. There is no time for pouting or pointing fingers. The Hawkeyes are still very much in the hunt for a top-four finish in the nation’s deepest conference.
Kriener was asked if there’s any reason for the Hawkeyes to even spend time dissecting this game when they reconvene Thursday.
“Knowing our (coaching) staff, we’re watching the film. It’s not going to be very fun,” Kriener said with a knowing smile. “The young guys, I might tell them to get a snack, get a drink, just get ready and learn from it.”
Iowa junior center Luka Garza, who scored a game-high 26 points against Purdue, was already looking ahead. He was asked if there was anything worthwhile that came out of the blowout loss.
“That might be the only positive thing is the motivation that comes from getting your ass kicked like this,” he said.
Kriener was looking ahead a little farther. The Boilermakers come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the home finale March 3.
“Motivation for Senior Night,” noted Kriener, who will be honored before that game.
Purdue pounds Iowa on offensive glass to set early tone
The Boilermakers didn’t miss many shots against Iowa (41 of 65, 63.1%). And when they did early, they hustled to retrieve them and score anyway.
Purdue built its early lead by grabbing each rebound on its first five errant shots. Iowa was a step slow, and paid a heavy price.
Garza, the second-leading rebounder in the Big Ten at 10.4 per game, was held to one Wednesday.
He said Iowa’s scouting report was to keep the Boilermakers off of the offensive glass, noting that they had outrebounded Wisconsin 42-16 in a 70-51 win here.
“Their wings did a really good job of getting in there, tipping balls, and a lot of guys were going really hard at the offensive glass,” Garza said. “And it was just unfortunate for us that we weren’t able to come down with more rebounds. A couple of them, we had our hands on.”
As for his performance, Garza noted that there wasn’t an abundance of defensive rebounds to be had as poorly as the Hawkeyes played on that end. He was more upset that he didn’t do a better job of attacking the offensive glass.
Boilermakers have their way at 3-point arc
Purdue has not been a good 3-point shooting team, connecting on only 33.3% of them entering play. But the Boilermakers caught Iowa by surprise by sinking four of them in their opening flurry.
They never let up. The Hawkeyes gave them no reason to.
Purdue made a season-high 19 of 34 3-pointers (55.9%), most of them lightly contested if at all. Seven Boilermakers made at least one. It looked like a shootaround in the second half.
“If you’re a college basketball player, most of the time you’re going to be able to knock down threes. And for the most part, we were giving them open looks that kind of got them going early. And for any shooter, once you see a couple go in, they’re going to continue to shoot with confidence,” Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp said.
Meanwhile, Iowa missed its first nine 3-point attempts and never made a run at the Boilermakers. That didn’t help matters.
“I don’t think we did a good job executing offensively. There wasn’t good movement. We weren’t screening for each other,” said Wieskamp, who was held to eight points, seven below his average.
“The fact that they were making shots was affecting our energy out there.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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