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What kind of Baer was Nicholas in Iowa's gritty win over Purdue?



11 minutes, 1-1 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 points




Like the patient brown bear, Nicholas spent much of the game waiting: waiting on the edge of the waterfall that was Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the perfect moment to strike out at the salmon that was the Purdue Boilermakers in the hopes of enjoying the rich protein goodness that was victory. Baer wasn't called on to play too many minutes against Purdue, as their megalithic lineup required a bit more heft in the post, but when he was in, he managed to contribute two plays that fired up the crowd and kept the team rolling to another signature win.


Nicholas had a classic Baer swat midway through the first half, coming off his man to block P.J. Thompson's shot from behind, but that wasn't his best play. That would come midway through the second half, when Baer replaced Peter Jok (who had just picked up his second foul). Iowa struggled through a possession for about twenty seconds, desperately trying to get Brady Ellingson open on a screen. With about five seconds left on the clock, the ball found its way to Baer about three feet beyond the three-point line. Seeing that this was probably the best shot Iowa would get in the possession, Baer launched up a 23-footer in the face of Raphael Davis, and the shot rattled in to give the Hawks a 13-point lead. There were a lot of great plays in this game, but the three threes Iowa's reserves hit during this stretch (one each by Ellingson, Baer and Dom Uhl) really seemed to demoralize Purdue. They were pure bonus points, and they gave the Hawks a nice cushion during the last 10 minutes of the game.




Beside the obvious player of the game in Jarrod Uthoff, maybe no one else on the team deserves more credit for the victory than Adam Woodbury. His points and rebounds were great — he has become a very reliable finisher in the pick and roll and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes is super impressive — but his best work came on defense. He battled Purdue's twin gargantua of AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas all day and somehow managed to hold the duo to 11 points and 8 rebounds. The sheer force of Purdue's inside game could have become an uncontrollable flood that swept all before it, but Woodbury managed to channel that force where it needed to go and transform it into something productive. He had some crucial help from Uhl and Ahmad Wagner, but in this Hoover Dam analogy, Woodbury represented the 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete that held back the Colorado River that was Hammons and Haas, while Uhl, Wagner, and the rest of the team were the steel, manpower and knowhow that made the dam a reality.

As much as Woodbury has a rep as a plodder, he succeeded for the most part by playing Purdue's big men in the same way an overmatched guard might: by fronting them and constantly scrambling to reestablish position and deny them the ball. It was kind of like watching a judo fighter trying to battle a sumo wrestler, with the smaller Woodbury using subtle hand moves and good footwork to again and again fight for position in front of the larger Purdue players. The 20-50 pounds and 1-2 inches Woodbury was giving up to Hammons and Haas respectively may not seem like a lot, but this photo of him defending Haas in the second half shows just how serious the mismatch was:


I was lucky enough to go to this game, and Haas was about the closest thing to a real-life giant I have ever seen. He looked like another form of human, and I'm still amazed Iowa managed to defend him so effectively. Some of that was Uhl taking Haas out on the perimeter on offense and making him look like a stone statue, but a lot of it was Woodbury battling in the post.


During the peak of salmon spawning season, Alaksan brown bears have so much available food that they are able to become something like ursine gourmands, feasting on only the most nutritious parts of the fish (the eggs and the head) while leaving the rest for scavengers.