WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Jaden Ivey had Mackey Arena on its feet when he threw down a fastbreak dunk to put No. 2 Purdue up by 19 points in the second half of the team’s game against Iowa on Friday. It was the largest lead of the night, and it appeared that the Boilermakers were going to cruise to yet another victory.
But the Hawkeyes gnawed away at the lead until they were within one basket of tying the game. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery opted for defensive presses and traps against Purdue for most of the contest, which caused the Boilermakers to turn the ball over 17 times.
Iowa finished the game 0-for-7 from the field while Purdue found the rebounds and free throws necessary to squeak out a 77-70 victory at home.
“The whole game, I feel like they were pressuring us,” said Ivey, who scored a game-high 19 points. “They’re really physical on the defensive end, they were being physical the whole game. We just stuck with it. We had some turnovers along the way, but we can clean that up in practice. I feel like we’ll be better next game.”
Those turnovers led to 20 Iowa points down the stretch. Purdue’s guards were trapped in the backcourt, and the other players on the floor failed to present themselves as a passing option to consistently break the press.
The team turned the ball over eight times in the second half as its lead dwindled. Iowa came within two points with 2:32 left to play in the game. The Hawkeyes came into the game looking to prevent the Boilermakers from simply walking up the court and setting up their offense.
“If you’re going to play this team, I think it’s the way to go,” McCaffery said. “If you let them walk it up and hammer it inside, it’s going to be difficult for any team defensively.”
Senior guard Eric Hunter Jr. struggled to keep control of the basketball, committing four turnovers in 25 minutes on the floor. Purdue coach Matt Painter said he was also affected by fatigue toward the end of the game.
Junior Isaiah Thompson, who normally substitutes in for Hunter, was fighting through soreness after taking a hard fall on his hip. He played just 16 minutes in the victory and was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
When it mattered most, Painter paired senior forward Trevion Williams and sophomore forward Mason Gillis together. The duo fought for tough rebounds with the game on the line. Williams snatched four of his team-high 18 rebounds in the final two minutes of the game.
Gillis scored 12 points despite making just two shots from the field. He made all six of his free throws, including a pair that put Purdue up by four points late in the game. The Hawkeyes committed 29 personal fouls, and the Boilermakers cashed in on 27 of 37 free-throw attempts.
“Toward the end of the game, we have to crack down on what we’re doing right and wrong,” Gillis said. “Less turnovers, more offensive rebounds, more defensive rebounds, stopping them from doing whatever they want to do.
“When we can finish a game, we have to finish a game. Hitting free throws, little things. That’s the biggest thing.”
The Boilermakers are now 8-0 for just the fifth time since the 1939-40 season, and they are poised to claim the No. 1 spot in the national rankings for the first time in program history. It may not have been pretty, but the great teams know how to win even when things get ugly.
“I told our team, I said this is a really good learning lesson for us,” Painter said. “Most times in basketball when you learn these lessons, you lose. So hopefully we learned a hard lesson here while still winning.”