Keegan Murray is glad he’s going to get to play against Purdue this time.
Filip Rebraca is hoping he’ll get to play a little longer this time against the Boilermakers.
How Iowa deals with the No. 6 Boilermakers in Thursday’s 8 p.m. game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena may depend a lot on the availability of two of their best frontcourt players.
Murray, who averages 22.8 points per game, didn’t play in the Hawkeyes’ 77-70 loss at Purdue on December 3 because of a sprained ankle. Rebraca did play, but fouled out after playing just 20 minutes against the Boilermakers’ front line of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams.
Contending with the Boilermakers (16-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) is going to take a complete effort, especially since sophomore guard Jaden Ivey, who averages 16.7 points per game, is expected to be back after missing Sunday’s game at Northwestern because of an injury.
“They're a tough matchup everywhere,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It starts with (Purdue’s frontcourt), of course, but then Ivey is next level, and they have multiple 3-point shooters. They have veterans coming off the bench. They're not a mistake team. They run really good stuff. They defend. It really takes your best to beat them.”
“Obviously I want to go against Purdue at full strength,” Murray said. “They’re one of the best teams in the country. Just getting their best shot at home is something I really look forward to.”
The Hawkeyes (14-5, 4-4) are at full strength, which they weren’t when they played the Boilermakers in the Big Ten season opener with Murray on the bench.
Murray, who had injured his ankle in Iowa’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Virginia four nights before the game, didn’t like having to watch the game, in which Iowa fell down by 19 points with 9:54 to play before rallying to get within two points twice in the last three minutes.
“I was excited for the first (game), but I was obviously held back,” Murray said. “It was definitely tough. Obviously Mackey (Arena) is a great place to play. When I finally figured out I wasn’t going to play, it hurt a little bit.
“I just feel like, for me, I wanted to step up and play with them.”
Now he’ll get to do that, although he knows the challenge of facing the 7-foot-4 Edey is going to be difficult.
“Obviously it’s different, it’s unique,” Murray said. “And he’s really skilled, too, so that creates a different factor in itself. You have to game-plan around that on offense and defense. But definitely it’s a unique matchup.
“They’re an extremely versatile team. They really have no weaknesses on either side of the ball.”
Rebraca did get first-hand experience against Edey and Williams, but he picked up two first-half fouls and then a third foul 3:15 into the second half. He had just three points and one rebound.
“I think the first game I did pretty well against Zach Edey,” Rebraca said. “I did get fouls. People can argue if these were ticky-tack fouls or not.”
“People,” Rebraca said. “Not me.”
It was a lesson Rebraca has learned.
“You can’t miss the guy, really,” Rebraca said of Edey. “He’s a very big individual, and it’s going to take a lot out of me to stop him. It’s not going to only be a physical battle, it’s going to have to be a battle of IQ. All of these battles of inches matter when you’re playing a guy like him.”
The Hawkeyes know that they had their chances against the Boilermakers the last time.
“We recognize how good they are,” McCaffery said. “They were ranked No. 2 at the time. It was a hostile environment. Our kids kept their composure. There were probably three times in that game where we could have folded and could have gone to 25 and it didn't, but this team is really explosive offensively, and a handful on the glass. Anything less than your best effort makes it hard, so we’ve got to be ready to compete.”