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Is second time the charm for the Hawkeyes?

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in two weeks Iowa takes on the Boilermakers. The first game wasn’t pretty and we won’t speak of it again.

HOWEVAH, tonight’s contest against OMHR will be played in the friendly confines of Iowa City. Unfortunately, class doesn’t get back in session until next week, so there will be even fewer surly students at the game than normal, if that’s somehow possible.

The Hawkeyes certainly have been playing better basketball since their conference-opener against Purdue, winning an overtime game against Michigan, going in to two overtimes in a loss to Nebraska, and blowing out squeaking past Rutgers.

Purdue followed-up its blowout win against Iowa with a nine-point loss to Minnesota, who just got mollywhopped by Michigan State last night. Parity! The Boilers then beat Ohio State by 1 last week, and followed that up with a convincing 66-55 win over Wisconsin.

Purdue continues to play sound basketball with talent and experience at all five positions. And that spells trouble for Iowa, since that is not the type of blueprint this particular Hawkeye squad normally finds success with, what with their youth and propensity to make mistakes and all.

Anyway, let’s talk about what Iowa needs to do in order to win this game.

What happened last time

Purdue had five players score double-digits. That’s really impressive for Purdue, regardless of the competition. Carsen Edwards led the way with 19 while Dakota Mathis had 17, but the Boiler who gave Iowa the most trouble was Caleb Swanigan.

The sophomore forward had 11 points and 10 rebounds against Iowa, with 9 of those boards coming on the defensive end. Swanigan has had a double-double in eight consecutive games now, and is making a serious push for Big Ten player of the year.

Swanigan dominated the paint against Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl, who were both playing in their first ever-conference games. It was also the first time Cook saw the court in over a month after coming off hand surgery. So the good news for Iowa, if there is any, is the fact that Pemsl and Cook have a whole three more games worth of experience this time around.

Purdue also completely shut down Peter Jok who tied a season-low 13 points in the game. Jok was essentially double-teamed the whole game and it didn’t matter because the duo of Swanigan and Ivan Drago Isaac Haas in the paint stopped any and all attempts at driving to the rim cold.

Iowa got very little production out of Isaiah Moss (0 points, 2 turnovers) and Jordan Bohannon (6 points, 4 assists) in the contest, but honestly I think those two have improved significantly, or as much as one can in just three games. Nicholas Baer played 27 minutes off the bench and did OK—7 points, 7 boards—but I do recall him getting frustrated and out-muscled early and often.

What Iowa has to do to win

I think if Iowa plays the way it did against Nebraska—which is to say having Peter Jok go for a million—then the Hawkeyes at least have a chance. We still haven’t seen the same Tyler Cook we saw in the early non-con season, but tonight sure would be a great night to bring back some Cook Murderdunks, wouldn’t it? I don’t think Purdue will simply be able to double-team Jok what with the emergence of Moss, so I do expect to see some more production out of him than the last game. Right now Purdue is ranked 14th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defense, so no matter what this is an elite defensive team.

On the defensive side, Cook and Pemsl are going to have to at least slow down Haas and Swanigan, but that might not even be enough. Iowa’s guards have played defense well enough but that means little when Purdue can just kick it in to their big men who eat the lunch of Iowa’s forwards. Purdue shot 50% in this game, and 41 percent from three. Those numbers just won’t happen again, so that’s another thing to be optimistic about.

The Computer in Mom’s Basement predicts a much closer game this time around, and I’m inclined to believe those numbers. As of this writing, Purdue is a 5.5-point favorite in Vegas, but I’m inclined to believe it will be even closer. You heard it here first, the Boilers are on upset alert in Iowa City.