Iowa women aim to rebound against upstart Purdue

Ryan Murken
Iowa's Ally Disterhoft draws a foul from Penn State's Brianna Banks during their game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016.

There are no surprises atop the Big Ten standings.

Preseason favorites Maryland and Ohio State are both ranked in the top 10 in the country and locked in a tie for the Big Ten lead.

Even Michigan State, which sits in a tie for third place in the conference, comes as no shock after being viewed in the preseason as a contender.

The early-season surprise to some is who the Spartans are tied with for third place, just one game back of the conference leaders.

Purdue (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten), which finished tied for last in the league a year ago, has already eclipsed its win total from a season ago entering Sunday’s 2 p.m. meeting with Iowa (13-6, 3-4) at Mackey Arena.

While few projected Purdue to open the Big Ten season with five straight wins, the Boilermakers' return toward the top of the conference hasn’t come as a surprise to everyone.

“It’s definitely not a name that was projected up there at the start but I’m not entirely surprised just because there is so much parity in the Big Ten, you never know what team is going to step up on any given night,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft said. “It’s not entirely surprising but they are obviously playing some pretty good basketball.”

Purdue opened Big Ten play with five straight wins as part of a nine-game Boilermaker winning streak that spanned more than a month and ended with a 20-point loss at seventh-ranked Ohio State last Sunday.

The Boilermakers enter Sunday coming off back-to-back losses after falling to Nebraska on Wednesday.

Still, the early-season success for Purdue following last year’s 11-20 record that included a 3-15 Big Ten mark has come as no surprise to Iowa coach Lisa Bluder.

“I don’t know that it’s a surprise, they just had lost a lot the year before so they were kind of going through some of that rebuilding pain that happens,” Bluder said. “This year they are back on track again.”

Purdue will face an Iowa team attempting to end its own two-game losing skid.

The Hawkeyes got off to their own strong conference start, winning back-to-back games to open the Big Ten slate, but have lost four of their last five games following a disappointing 82-69 home loss to Penn State.

Iowa will be trying to avoid its first three-game losing skid since 2013.

“It was a disappointing loss on Wednesday and I think we were a little wounded after that game but the thing about young people is that they have short memories and I think that is a good thing,” Bluder said. “They were ready to come back today.”

Iowa will need to bounce back quickly to get past a Purdue team fueled by the guard combo of April Wilson and Ashley Morrissette.

A 5-foot-7 senior, Wilson leads the Boilermakers in scoring (15.7), assists (6.0) and steals (2.3), while the 5-foot-9 Morrissette adds 11.8 points per game.

Iowa was outrebounded by 14 in Wednesday’s loss to Penn State, marking the first time in four games the Hawkeyes had failed to outrebound an opponent.

Bluder believes reversing the rebounding results from Wednesday will be a key against a Purdue team that ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin.

“Rebounding is going to be a big statistic because Purdue is a very good rebounding team,” Bluder said. “They are excellent on the glass and so I think we are going to be really challenged to keep them off the glass.”

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken

Sunday's Game

Who: Iowa (13-4, 3-2 Big Ten) at Purdue (14-4, 5-2)   

When: Sunday, 2 p.m.

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.

Stat leaders: Iowa — Ally Disterhoft 16.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg; Alexa Kastanek 11.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg. Purdue — April Wilson 15.7 ppg, 6.0 apg; Bridget Perry 11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg.  

What to watch: One team will snap a two-game losing skid as both teams enter having dropped back-to-back Big Ten games.

Iowa has won two straight over the Boilermakers, including a 73-59 win in West Lafayette in the only meeting between the two teams last season.

The Hawkeyes have won five of the last six meetings with Purdue and own a 2-1 record in West Lafayette during that stretch.

Iowa lost 12 straight games at Purdue from 2000 to 2012 before a 72-52 win in 2013.