Iowa's first game with Purdue offers upset hope for Thursday's rematch. But Hawkeyes know an even stronger effort is needed.

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — The frustration came rushing back to Filip Rebraca as he recounted Iowa's near-upset from eight weeks ago. The Hawkeye men's basketball team had then-No. 2 Purdue backpedaling on its home floor, reeling from Iowa's late rally that turned a rout into a tense Big Ten affair. 

"Last game, I felt like we kind of had them," Rebraca said Tuesday. "It was a very close game until the end, then I fouled out. And that just irritates me as a player and a competitor."

Purdue center Zach Edey (15) is defended by Iowa's Filip Rebraca (0) during the first half of a Big Ten Conference basketball game Dec. 3, 2021, in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won 77-70.

As the Hawkeyes ready for Thursday's rematch with now-No. 6 Purdue — an 8 p.m. tip inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena — consider Rebraca's words a microcosm of how Iowa views the 77-70 loss on Dec. 3 as it relates to this week's round two.

There were several positives secured, as the Hawkeyes almost erased a 19-point deficit against the Boilermakers' daunting interior presence without Keegan Murray active. But Purdue's ability to escape accentuates the need for an even stronger effort this time around. Iowa doesn't want another chance at an eye-popping win to slip away. 

"I'm itching and scratching to get another chance to play these guys," Rebraca said. "I'm very excited, and now we're doing it at home. So hopefully, we can walk out of here with a win."

More:What channel is Iowa basketball vs. No. 6 Purdue? How to watch Hawkeyes' rematch with Boilermakers

While last month's Purdue showdown offers hope Iowa can again hang with one of the Big Ten's best, the film isn't an exact blueprint for how Thursday's game might go.

For one, Purdue forward Mason Gillis has regained his starting role and heftier workload — neither of which was true in the first matchup. After a four-game suspension to open the season, Gillis was in the fourth game of his return on Dec. 3 and played only 18 minutes off the bench versus Iowa. Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery has noticed a more potent Gillis in Purdue's recent games.

Also — and this one works in Iowa's favor — the Hawkeyes didn't have Murray to assist with the daunting challenge around the rim. As dominant as Gillis, all-Big Ten forward Trevion Williams and 7-foot-4 giant Zach Edey can be, attacking Purdue with your best weapon on the bench isn't an ideal situation. Consider Murray amped to not have to watch this Purdue showdown in street clothes. 

"It was definitely tough (missing that first game," said Murray, who sat with an ankle injury that December night. "Obviously Mackey (Arena) is a tough place to play, and it was a game-time decision. When I finally figured out I wasn't going to play it obviously hurt a little bit but I wanted to be on the bench and support our team. Our team played really good that day and gave them a tough match.

"I just feel like for me, I want to step up and play with them and just enjoy (Thursday's atmosphere with them."

As of Tuesday afternoon, roughly 3,500 tickets remained for Thursday's hyped showdown. The Hawkeyes enjoyed the benefits of a sold-out arena in Saturday's 68-51 win over Penn State, and it appears much of that energy has stuck for Purdue — even with Iowa encountering another 8 p.m. weeknight tip. 

A raucous environment would be an appropriate response, given how massive this game could be for the Hawkeyes' resume if they emerge victorious. While Iowa is firmly entrenched in the most recent NCAA Tournament bracketologies, McCaffery's squad is still lacking that monumental signature win.

Iowa is 0-3 against ranked teams this season. Going off ESPN's most recent tournament projection, the Hawkeyes are one of just four major-conference teams included without an AP top-25 victory. After Thursday, Iowa's remaining games against teams currently ranked in the AP poll are Feb. 3 at No. 18 Ohio State, Feb. 22 vs. No. 10 Michigan State and March 6 at No. 24 Illinois.       

At the very least, toppling Purdue would buy some more wiggle room over the regular season's final month as the NCAA Tournament lights get brighter. Top-10 victories, even in late January, can carry significant weight on Selection Sunday. 

There's evidence Iowa won't be overwhelmed by Purdue's prowess. But the Hawkeyes aren't in the mood for another close defeat emitting progress amid disappointment

"We recognize how good they are," McCaffery said. "... Anything less than your best effort makes it hard, so we've got to be ready to compete."    

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.