Going back to Mackey turned out to be no problem.
If you took a look at the game thread before this started, you’ll know that my biggest question going into this game was how Purdue would respond after their second loss of the season. Especially after what was the first game where they really looked out of sorts for the vast majority of the game. I was especially worried about Braden Smith after that IU game ended. He’s just a freshman and sometimes things can stick with you. You just never know. Well, it turns out no one needed to worry about Braden Smith tonight. Even when the lead was evaporating in the second half it wasn’t because Braden wasn’t doing his part.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG) – This one should go to Smith. After the guy had the pain of the loss against IU and that change in his mind, this was a much-needed balm to remind himself of the player we all know he is. Smith jumped out to six points early in the first half and never looked back. He was a reliever, a rebounder and a scorer. He finished the game with an impressive 24 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
Now, if you know anything about Purdue playing Iowa, you know the script. You’ve seen it before. Purdue gets up big and then something changes and suddenly the lead dwindles. Like a Hollywood producer who just wants to get a sequel to this game, stuck to the formula. After going up by 21 in the second half, suddenly Iowa pulled away. Purdue started to struggle with that Iowa press and giving Iowa turnover after turnover, the shooting went cold and Purdue was making mistake after mistake on defense. A 21-point lead was cut to 6 with just over 5:00 to play. As Purdue fans we are used to this. It doesn’t mean we were any less nervous.
I also think it’s fair to point out that while Purdue played poorly during this stretch, Iowa looked good. As Matt Painter likes to point out from time to time, the other team has scholarships too. Everyone in this league has talent, but they don’t always showcase themselves at the same time. For those 8-9 minutes of basketball in the second half, Iowa really put it all together. Purdue took the field with a punch to the jaw.
Fortunately Purdue responded, as we always knew they would, with a quick 6-0 run in just two minutes to push the lead to 12 and put the game out of reach for the Hawkeyes. Purdue would eventually push the lead to 14 and leave Mackey Arena with an 87-73 victory.
Purdue found itself very early thanks to the heroics of Braden Smith and despite the lack of offensive production from…Zach Edey? This can’t be right. Let me check the box score again. Wow I think so. Edey went into the first half with just four points and eight rebounds. I can’t remember the last time Edey had just four points in a half, but Purdue still found a way to go into the half 38-21. In addition to Smith’s stellar offensive play Purdue was fueled by Caleb Furst going 3-3 for seven points and Mason Gillis continuing his hot shooting at Mackey Arena and going 3-6 from the floor including 2-4 from deep to complete the part. with eight points. With Smith scoring 10 points in the first game, Purdue got 25 of those three points to single-handedly outplay Iowa.
In addition to the great game from JWMPOTG, there are a few other quick hits I wanted to highlight.
- Purdue found its free throw stroke again after IU fumbled. Purdue had just three attempts in the first half, but finished the game 11-12 from the line.
- That Iowa and what McCaffery was gifted certainly didn’t seem like one and the same. Apparently the sequel is dragging on in the NCAA.
- Purdue outshot Iowa 43-23. A +20 advantage is simply incredible.
- It was nice to see Fletcher Loyer hit more than one three after trying from deep late.
- Purdue’s press continues to be a key to staying in a game. 17 turnovers tonight and many of those came as a result of Iowa’s press.
- How can Iowa have such a good press but be so poor at everything else defensively?
- I don’t think I’ve seen any Franco issues here. Mostly he kept his cool.
- Despite the slow first half, Edey still finished the game 14 and 14 for a ho-hum double-double. Has Nike given him the shoes yet?
With Purdue now at 23-2 overall and 12-2 in conference play, they remain in the driver’s seat for their 25th Big Ten championship. Purdue’s magic number is now three to win at least a share of the conference title. Every game is important, but right now for Purdue, no one game is as important as the next.
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