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Previewing the Hawkeyes vs #6 Purdue

Will Keegan Murray’s presence prove to be the difference?

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Iowa Hawkeyes (14-5, 4-4) take on the #6 Purdue Boilermakers (16-3, 5-3) tonight in a pivotal matchup as Iowa looks to stay in the gooey center of the Big Ten conference. The Hawks lost their first outing against Purdue, 77-70, after falling down by as many as 17 points without Keegan Murray. A hectic 14-2 run made it a two-point game down the stretch but they couldn’t climb the mountain and went 0fer in the final two minutes.

Some interesting stats from that first game: Iowa forced Purdue’s second highest turnover rate (22.4%) as the press helped fuel the comeback attempt and their third lowest effective FG% at 50%. 8/19 shooting from three & 27/37 shooting from the FT line propelled the Boilermaker offense.

Since that first matchup, Purdue has gone 8-3, with losses at Rutgers and Indiana and a home defeat to Wisconsin. Yuck. The double OT win at Illinois, 96-88, is their best of the season and one of the best games in all of college basketball through the first couple months.

Their offense remains the best in the nation, per KenPom, by way of elite shooting from all over the court and offensive rebounding on the back of Zach Edey & Trevion Williams.

Projected Starters:

G: Isaiah Thompson (Jr, 6’1”, 160 lbs) - 5.7 PPG, 1.3 APG, 41% FG%, 40% 3P%, 19.9 MPG
G: Jaden Ivey (Sr, 6’4”, 195lbs) - 16.7 PPG, 2.9 APG, 5.0 RPG, 49% FG%, 42% 3P%, 29.3 MPG
G: Sasha Stefanovic (Jr, 6’5”, 205 lbs) - 12.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 42% FG, 42% 3P%, 29.3 MPG
F: Mason Gillis (So, 6’6”, 230 lbs) - 7.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 59% FG%, 53% 3P%, 21.9 MPG
C: Zach Edey (So, 7’4”, 295 lbs) - 15.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.9 ORPG, 71% 2P%, 18.4 MPG

(stats via sports-reference)

There were some questions as to whether Jaden Ivey would go after missing the Boilers’ win over Northwestern, but he’s locked and loaded. He went for 19 points the first time out, shooting 6/8 from 2. He’s maintained his scoring output at 16.7/game as the conference season has heated up, including a 19-point second half against Indiana as they tried to mount a comeback in Bloomington.

The two-headed monster down low remains a 40-minute problem for Purdue’s opponents. Edey and Trevion Williams will almost never share the floor together and offer much different skillsets in big men. Edey is an absolute bear to guard if he’s got the ball around the basket (71% at the rim with only 2 of his 165 shots coming from midrange, per Pivot Analysis). He’s also drawing 7.6 fouls/40 minutes.

Williams, on the other hand, is more of a facilitator, adding 2.9 assists to his 12.3 points/game. He has a little flair to his game, and could be liable for an unforced turnover or two as a result, but he can find the open man from pretty much any angle, if a double comes.

Stefanovic leads the team in assists as the primary facilitator inside. It’ll be important to guard him tight to limit those angles as well as his three point shooting. Gillis made his only two threes against Iowa last time out and has a couple 3/4 games in his belt as a stretch 4. Point being: Purdue can get a lot of offense a lot of ways.

Three questions

Does Fran lean on the press?

Perhaps the best way to limit Purdue’s offense is simply to limit their half court opportunities. Iowa’s press went a long way in cutting into the second half lead as Tony Perkins, Ahron Ulis, and others harangued Boilermaker guards (particularly sub Eric Hunter, who had 4 turns) in the back court. While press-breaking has been an issue for past Matt Painter teams, he has been better in recent years before Iowa coaxed 17 turnovers out of them in December.

I suspect Purdue’s starters to be more well-prepared to break Iowa’s press and use it against them to find open shooters in the corner or 1v1 matchups down low before the Hawks can set their halfcourt defense. But it was a nice quiver for Iowa against opponents and has been a way for them to turn defense into offense. I suspect we see a heavy dose of it with a number of guys serving at the top of it - Perkins, Pat, the Murrays - as a way to get Purdue out of their rhythm.

Can Iowa keep the usual suspects in check from deep?

Purdue has had a history of absolutely obliterating Iowa on the back of strong three point shooting. In a 2020 win, Sasha Stefanovic went 5/9 from deep in a game that was not as close as the 104-68 final score showed. The game still haunts me.

Anyways, Iowa actually dodged some bullets in the first game against these guys with Stefanovic and Ivey combining for just 2/8 from deep. If the Hawks can get a replicable defensive performance at the arc, they’ll have a shot.

Trevion Williams had how many rebounds the first time out?

I don’t know how I forgot this, but Williams had 17 defensive rebounds (half of Purdue’s total) in December. Iowa struggled on the offensive glass, with the only post rebound on that end coming from Josh Ogundele in his 16 minutes. The other 4 were from Iowa guards (Perkins, Ulis, Peyton Sandfort). While I went on about how much I appreciate the current Hawkeye setup at the 4 & 5, it’s probably a necessity to incorporate a heavy dose of Ogundele, as Rebraca fouled out.

Getting Keegan Murray back should also help out in this area. Defensively, Iowa did fine on the glass, yielding only 8 offensive rebounds. The issue here was 3 came from Caleb Furst. Again, more Keegan probably fixes this a bit, but Iowa will need rebounding from all positions if they hope to eliminate the wild stat line we saw from Williams which could be replicated by Edey, or on the offensive end.

Purdue still remains highly touted since the first matchup but has struggled - relatively - as the conference season has heated up. A win for Iowa would actually tie these two teams at 5-4 into a tie for 7th place with Rutgers but grant the Hawks with their first signature win of the season.

Let’s get it!