Before this season started, a lot of people (myself included) worried about how this Iowa team was going to match up with Purdue and their front line of giants. Sure, Iowa has a great post defender in Adam Woodbury, but Iowa can't run him the entire 40 minutes and what happens if he gets in foul trouble? Well, Sunday marks twice this season that Iowa has had little issue with Purdue's oversized attack. And they did it this time with Adam Woodbury having some foul trouble, too.
Iowa essentially took away Purdue's post game, and challenged them to a three-point shooting competition. A competition that is more up Iowa's alley than Purdue's, as the Hawkeyes came out of the locker room and nailed 5 of their first 6 attempted threes of the second half. By the time Dom Uhl knocked home Iowa's fifth trey of the half, the Hawkeyes had taken a 2-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 15-point lead in just 7 minutes of game time. From there on out, Iowa was able to hit a few more jumpers and coast on a wave of free throws to victory.
This was yet another double-digit win over a good Big Ten team. At this rate, Iowa is on their way to creating one hell of a March resume for themselves.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.05, Purdue 1.12
First Half Possessions: 31
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.17, Purdue 0.84
Second Half Possessions: 43
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.12, Purdue 0.96
Total Possessions: 74
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Purdue||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Three-point shooting was the big savior for Iowa on offense. Their 6-12 form from long range helped them stay afloat in the first half when they were just 6-17 from inside the three-point line. And it was the spark that ignited their big run at the beginning of the second half. Once Iowa started raining threes on Purdue after halftime and the crowd got going, this game was basically over.
But, again, this is a game that I'm not sure Iowa could have won last season. Past Fran McCaffery-led Iowa teams have been very reliant on scoring in the paint and at the free throw line. The former was not working for Iowa in this game, as Purdue's defense not only helped keep Iowa away from the rim, but also contested many of the shots that they had there. The latter also wasn't working much until the final four minutes of the game when Purdue decided they were going to start fouling and hope that Iowa would miss their free throws. Instead of trying to bust through this big Purdue defense, you need to be able to shoot over them. And, by now, we all know that this team is certainly capable of doing that.
On the defensive end, Iowa did an excellent job of limiting the impact that Purdue's trio of big guys had on the game. Purdue knew what Iowa's strategy would be, but they still had no answer for it. The Hawkeyes were going to look to deny the entry pass by fronting Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan. They would focus on positioning to make sure that if one of those guys did catch it, they wouldn't be able to catch it deep into the paint. And when they did catch it, they were going collapse multiple guys down hard on them. This strategy worked most of the day for the Hawkeyes, as none of the Boilermakers' post players did much in this game.
Between the three big guys, Iowa held them to just 16 total points on 5-17 shooting from the field. More importantly, the Hawkeyes were able to limit their field goal attempts near the rim, as only 10 of those 16 total points came in the paint (6 for Hammons and 4 for Swanigan). A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan frequently had to settle for jumpers away from the basket, and you know Iowa will take that all day long. Meanwhile, Isaac Haas was held to just 1 point for the entire game, and only played 8 minutes, thanks to Iowa's smaller lineup making him look bad on defense.
Once their inside game was all but eliminated, Purdue had no chance at keeping up with Iowa in a shooting battle.
Taking care of the ball proved to be an issue again for Purdue against this Iowa team. The Hawkeyes were able to pick 9 steals in the game on their way to forcing 17 total turnovers; one in a little under every four possessions for Purdue. The Hawkeyes again had some success with their 1-2-2 three-quarter court press, but Iowa was also able to take the ball away from the Boilers in the half-court, too. They were also able to capitalize with 24 points on those 17 turnovers (1.41 points per turnover), which meant enough empty Purdue possessions followed by Iowa points that allowed the Hawks to break this game open and keep it there.
Iowa did turn the ball over on about one possession more than they usually do this season. However, they still had 5 fewer turnovers than Purdue did, which helped offset the fact that Purdue did a decent job of converting them into points (1.17 points per turnover) on their end.
Here's the one category that Iowa lost on the day. Of course, it was also the one category we were all pretty sure they would lose, seeing how Purdue is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and Iowa isn't. But Iowa did hold Purdue to a few percentage points below their season average on the offensive glass, and they only allowed the Boilers to score 9 second chance points off of 14 offensive rebounds (0.64 points per second chance opportunity).
Iowa only managed 5 second chance points off of 5 offensive rebounds themselves. But the fact that Purdue could only muster up 9 second chance points from all the offensive rebounds they had is a testament to Iowa's defense. I mean, even with the turnover disparity, the Boilermakers still finished the game with about 4 more scoring opportunities (free throw possessions included) than what Iowa had. Those offensive put backs could have made this a different game. Instead, their inability to take advantage of extra tries helped give Iowa another double-digit win.
Free Throw Rate
First of all, Iowa's free throw rate is super-inflated due to Purdue starting to foul with about four minutes left in the game. During those four minutes and change, Iowa attempted 19 of their 28 free throws. Purdue's fouling strategy was the reason this game made it over 70 possessions, and the only reason we saw a 43 possession second half.
Second of all, neither team wanted to make their damn free throws in this one. Iowa was just 18-28 from the line, while Purdue was 8-15. Iowa's bigs (Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff) continued to be the most reliable at the line, while Iowa's guards (Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons) both missed 4 free throws apiece.
Overall, Iowa still won the quantity of free throws (28-15) and they also won the quality (64%-53%). So this category goes to them.
Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
Jarrod Uthoff was absolutely unguardable in this game. After Rapheal Davis was torched for 25 in the first match up, Matt Painter gave Caleb Swanigan the duty of defending Iowa's star forward for the afternoon. And, besides one block and fast break opportunity that Swanigan had against Uthoff, not much changed for Purdue when it came to stopping him. Uthoff still scored 22 points on 7-13 shooting from the field (4-5 from three) and 4-4 shooting from the line. Outside of the dunk where he took Swanigan off the dribble and just about put him on a poster, Uthoff did most of his damage from distance. Purdue's big men weren't comfortable out on the perimeter in the first game and that proved to be true once again on Sunday. Swanigan didn't want to get directly up in Uthoff's face on the perimeter for fear he would be taken off the dribble. So he often left a bit of space, which allowed Uthoff to hit 3 of his 4 threes on the talented freshman. The fourth came when Hammons and Swanigan switched men on the possession, and Uthoff proceeded to do this:
That's just unfair, you guys. That right there is why Uthoff's NBA draft stock is rising.
Outside of scoring, Uthoff also had a stretch in the second half where he was a mighty fine distributor. All three of his assists on the day came in the opening four minutes of the second half, when Iowa was starting to pull away. It started with him finding Mike Gesell on the wing for a three, and then taking his defender off the dribble on back-to-back possessions and finding Adam Woodbury as soon as A.J. Hammons was forced to help on defense.
(Note: We have a spinner on the bench! Can anyone tell whether that is Okey Ukah or Brandon Hutton?)
Uthoff also finished the game with one block, and played a big part in keeping Purdue's big men in check.
Next, Adam Woodbury was also a big reason why Purdue couldn't get much going in the post.
He did only play 23 minutes, thanks to 4 fouls, but that was enough playing time to register his second double-double in a row. When he wasn't screaming like a mad man and cheering his team on from the bench, Woody gave Iowa 13 points (4-6 from the field and 5-6 from the line) and pulled down 10 rebounds on the day. But, again, his 8 defensive boards in 23 minutes were key in shutting off the tap of second chance points for the Boilermakers.
Also, in end-of-game situations, I think I've come to prefer that he or Uthoff get the ball and take the foul. Iowa's two main big guys are clearly the more trustworthy options at the free throw line right now. No offense to Gesell or Clemmons, but it's a good thing Iowa hasn't had any real close games come down to free throws in a while.
Besides those missed free throws, Anthony Clemmons had himself another good game on both sides of the ball. With Mike Gesell battling both ankle and hamstring injuries, Clemmons helped facilitate the offense against Purdue by dishing out 6 assists and only losing the ball once. He also gave Iowa 10 points and continued to be aggressive with the basketball. His increased emphasis on attacking the basket paid off in the form of 4 points off of layups and the other 6 off of his 10 trips to the foul line. He also gave Iowa 3 defensive rebounds and had 2 of the team's 9 steals.
Then there was Peter Jok, who scored 13 of the hardest points of his life. With Rapheal Davis not having much of an effect on stopping Jarrod Uthoff in the last game, Davis was given the assignment of guarding Iowa's other sharpshooter. Jok still finished with 13 points, but it took him 12 field goal attempts and a free throw to do so. He also made just 1 of his 4 tries from beyond the arc, and even that one wasn't easy. Jok regularly ran through a host of screens to try and get an open look, but nothing was simple and you could see he was frustrated at times. His (and Fran's) peak frustration probably came when Jok was called for an offensive foul in the second half after he ran into Caleb Swanigan as he tried to run through the baseline. Jok and Fran argued he was pushed, but the refs weren't having it. After the game, here's what Jok had to say about his day:
Peter Jok on Purdue's grabby defense: "They were holding me. (Refs) told coach I was acting. I guess I’ve got to stop acting, I don’t know."— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) January 24, 2016
With his vast improvement this season, Jok is now a known quantity. Opposing teams are game-planning for him now, and that means if the other side has the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year on their roster, there is a decent chance that he's going to be assigned to cover Iowa's rising star. Overall, Jok held his own pretty well against Davis, and he continued to play some pretty good defense, as he had 3 of Iowa's 9 steals on the day. Not every team has that type of lockdown defender, of course, which means Jok should be back to scoring 20 points before you know it.
Finally, Iowa's bench had another fantastic game against great competition. Dom Uhl at the five position was an absolute mismatch on offense, while not giving away anything on defense. When Uhl first entered the game, Isaac Haas was tasked with defending him, and the possession before he hit his first three-pointer, Uhl looked like he was sizing him up. After realizing that Haas wasn't going to get up to the three-point line and defend him, he went ahead and drained a three on him on the next possession. He also hit one a few minutes later, followed by a nice drive and finish to remind Purdue that they just had absolutely no way of dealing with his versatility. He finished the game with those 8 points just mentioned, but also threw in 5 rebounds (1 offensive), and 2 assists, including a nice extra pass to Brady Ellingson in the corner for an open three.
Speaking of Ellingson, he finally had himself a nice game against Big Ten competition. He also scored 8 points by making 2 of his 4 attempted three-point shots, and opportunistically grabbing a bobbled Jarrod Uthoff shot attempt near the rim and putting it home for two.
Nicholas Baer also did some nice things in his 11 minutes on the court. He started by making his only three-point attempt -- one in which he had a defender in his face, no less. He also came from behind and swatted a P.J. Thompson jumper.
And, last but not least, Ahmad Wagner continued to get some nice game experience. He logged two fouls in seven minutes of play, but Iowa needed another body off the bench that could absorb the fouls that Purdue's big men were drawing. He also gave Iowa two defensive rebounds and a blocked shot in that little time on the court, so I would say this was an overall positive game for him.
With Iowa proving for the second time that they are a bad match up for Purdue, and not vice versa, the Hawkeyes are now 7-0 in the conference with five of those wins coming against three of the other five top teams in the conference, according to Kenpom. Considering they have played the most difficult schedule of anyone in the Big Ten thus far, and have come away unscathed, they have to be considered the top contender for the conference title. They had already given themselves a nice cushion over Michigan State and Purdue, and they now have a chance to do some similar damage to Maryland on Thursday. And, of course, they finally get Indiana in a matter of weeks, too.
But the Hawkeyes are sitting as well as they absolutely could be right now. I think most of us would have been happy with 4-3 or 3-4 coming into the Big Ten season, but now this team is 7-0 and looking at a potential 1 seed in March. These are fun times, you guys. And with the upcoming game at Maryland, there is the potential for things to get a whole lot better.