Iowa-Purdue Preview

Iowa opened Big Ten play against the nation's top-ranked team and came away with an emphatic win.

The Hawkeyes, however, may actually face a more difficult challenge in their second conference game Saturday night, as they visit No. 14 Purdue and the Boilermakers' heralded front line.

The Hawkeyes (10-3, 1-0) had little trouble against Michigan State on Tuesday, leading by as many as 19 in cruising to an 83-70 victory. Senior Mike Gesell had a career-high 25 points and Peter Jok added 19 for Iowa, which knocked off a No. 1 team for the first time since beating Connecticut in 1999.

"This is a stepping stone," Gesell told Iowa's official website. "It's a way to start the Big Ten off right. Our ultimate goal isn't just to beat Michigan State, it's to win a Big Ten championship."

A conference title is also on the minds of the Boilermakers (13-1, 1-0), and at the moment, they're in better shape than the Spartans.

Iowa caught a bit of a break in going up against a Michigan State team missing do-everything star Denzel Valentine. It will have no such advantage against Purdue, which presents matchup problems with 7-footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

Hammons has totaled 45 points and nine blocked shots in a pair of wins for the Boilermakers following a 74-68 loss to then-No. 17 Butler on Dec. 19.

''I don't know if he understands it's pressure,'' coach Matt Painter said of Hammons after he matched a season high with 24 points in Tuesday's 61-55 victory at Wisconsin. ''The game has slowed down for him a little bit.''

With Hammons and Haas patrolling the interior, Purdue is among the national leaders in defensive field-goal percentage at 34.3 and scoring defense at 58.4 points per game.

"We used to be aggressive, we used to hawk the basketball," Painter said. "Now we play more position defense because we're bigger and we try not to foul. We try to keep people in front of us more. It's really helped us in morphing into a team that has so many big people."

With all that height, it's not surprising that the Boilermakers are among the top teams in the country in rebounding differential at plus-12.0. Six-foot-9 freshman sensation Caleb Swanigan averages a team-best 9.2 boards, while Hammons is at 8.1.

Rebounding is an area in which the Hawkeyes have struggled, as they're grabbing only 1.5 more boards per game than opponents.

Iowa's biggest strength is 3-point shooting, with leading scorer Jarrod Uthoff (17.6 ppg) hitting 45.8 percent of his 3s. The Hawkeyes are shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc and made 6 of 13 against Michigan State.

"I would like to think this is a great confidence builder, but we get another top ranked team Saturday," coach Fran McCaffery said. "Hopefully we learned lessons of how to compete, execute, and not take a possession off and we can carry that over for Purdue."

The Hawkeyes lost 67-63 at Purdue on Jan. 24 in last season's only matchup and have dropped seven straight at Mackey Arena. Gesell had 18 points in the latest meeting while Boilermakers senior Rapheal Davis had a career-high 24 points.

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