Then-unranked Iowa beat Purdue at the beginning of the month, and Big Ten play was off to about as pleasant of a start as Fran McCaffery likely would have imagined with wins over two of the league's ranked teams.
Things have only gotten better, and it's now the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes being targeted heading into the 22nd-ranked Boilermakers visit to Iowa on Sunday.
Iowa (15-3, 6-0) has won three of the last four meetings, including the last two at home as well as a 70-63 victory at Purdue (17-3, 5-2) on Jan. 2 behind Jarrod Uthoff 25 points. It stands as the Hawkeyes' closest conference game yet, and they expect another difficult test as they try to remain unbeaten in the conference along with Indiana.
"(Purdue) has made a couple of small changes (since the first meeting), but strength of their team is they have depth and size, but they also have shooters," McCaffery told the school's official website. "When they're making 3s, they're almost impossible to beat because of the mix of in and out."
While Iowa thrived defensively in that game, holding Purdue to 39.0 percent, the four wins since have come with plenty of offense. After Thursday's 90-76 win at Rutgers, the Hawkeyes have averaged 81.3 points and shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc since the trip to West Lafayette.
Uthoff has continued to lead the way, averaging 21.6 points over his last five while hitting 12 of 25 from 3-point range. While he finished with 20 against the Scarlet Knights, Peter Jok scored a career-high 29. The two combined to go 9 for 15 from outside with Jok sinking 5 of 9. The junior is averaging 18.1 points on 45.8 percent shooting and 46.8 from 3-point range in his last seven games after opening the season six points lower than that while connecting on a 37.0 percent clip overall and 30.0 percent from deep in his first seven.
"He's really playing extremely well," said McCaffery, though Jok was limited to 11 points and missed all six of his 3s versus Purdue. "I'm just happy to see him getting steals and getting rebounds. A couple mistakes, but not many. He doesn't rattle."
It all amounts to an eight-game winning streak, which it last bettered with a nine-game run in 2004-05. Iowa last started 7-0 in the Big Ten in 1970 when it finished 14-0 for the regular-season title.
The Boilermakers, meanwhile, have won three in a row with Thursday's 75-64 home win over Ohio State coming three days after winning by 50 at Rutgers. They've limited their last three opponents to an average of 59.3 points and 26.5 percent from 3-point range.
"They're going to guard and pressure you and pick you up, but it's not over the top," McCaffery said. "They play intelligently defensively, but they work and compete. The bottom line is if you want to beat Purdue, you have to compete."
Keeping up with Purdue's bench and attempting to keep things even on the glass are also important. Boilermakers reserves have outscored opponents' benches by 20.4 points per game, while their plus-12.4 rebounding margin is tops in the nation and drastically better than their school-record 7.6 mark.
Individually, Purdue has been getting more from Vince Edwards on the winning streak. The sophomore had 12 points against the Buckeyes and is averaging 14.3 in the last three while shooting 51.6 percent. That's up from 8.8 on 43.8 percent through 17 games.
Fellow forward Caleb Swanigan had 10 points and 10 rebounds against Ohio State to match Purdue's freshman record for double-doubles with seven, and he's averaged 11.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in the three straight wins.
"If you win the rebound battle, most of the time you'll win the game," Swanigan said. "So that's just always something I know I can do if my shots not falling or if I'm struggling in any other aspect of the game."