The Iowa Hawkeyes broke a three-game losing streak with a methodical, grinding 83-76 win over Purdue Sunday at Carver Hawkeye Arena. After a sluggish start from both teams, Iowa found its offensive form late in the first half, building a 13-point halftime lead. The Hawkeyes started the second half with one of their patented scoring droughts, allowing Purdue to temporarily retake the lead, but an Aaron White three-point basket with 8:10 remaining put the Hawkeyes on top. They would not relinquish the lead again. Mike Gesell went 6/8 from the free throw line down the stretch, and the Hawkeyes held on for the victory.
There's not much to say for the game itself. Purdue is a mess in general, and the Boilermakers' inconsistent shooting and frequent unforced errors played to Iowa's transition tendencies. Purdue finished with 16 turnovers and 25 fouls, leading to 18 Iowa points off turnovers and 36 free throw attempts. Iowa cashed in 26 of those attempts -- an unseasonably good 72 percent from the line -- and had more free throws made than Purdue attempted. That was the game.
Roy Devyn Marble finished with 21 points, five assists, and four steals, all team highs. Aaron White and Mike Gesell each added 15 points to the cause, with White hauling in 10 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double and fifth of the season. Josh Oglesby contributed 11 points from the bench on 3/7 shooting. Iowa finished with a rather pedestrian 47.5% effective field goal rate despite Marble's 9/18 performance. Gesell and White, who combined to go 6/20 from the field, had a lot to do with that..
The long-term implications are much more interesting. The win puts Iowa in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference with two games left to play. Both Iowa and Ohio State have one game left against Michigan State, though OSU gets Sparty at home. Iowa's second-favorite team for the last week of the regular season is Indiana, which plays at OSU and hosts Nebraska. The Huskers also get Michigan at home. Ohio State might have the best remaining schedule, but none of those three teams are currently favored to sweep the final week.
Barring an implosion by Michigan, all Iowa needs is a share of fourth to get a bye. In a three-way tie, Iowa would get the all-important fourth seed: The Hawkeyes went 2-1 against Nebraska and OSU, while the Huskers and Buckeyes were .500 against the rest of the deadlock. If Michigan wins the conference regular season championship, Iowa would also hold tiebreakers over both opponents in the case of a two-way tie. Iowa's win over Nebraska gives the Hawkeyes preference, while the split against Michigan (and OSU's loss in their only game against the Wolverines) is enough to win the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes.
In other words, even after three losses in the last eight days, Iowa improbably controls its own destiny for the first day of the conference tournament. At this point in the season, things could be much worse. For today, let's breathe a sigh of relief and take advantage of a few days off. The next three weeks are going to be massive.