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Purdue Beats Iowa in Big Ten Opener, Stakes Claim on No. 1

No. 2-ranked Purdue won its eighth consecutive game on Friday night, winning its Big Ten opener 77-70 over previously unbeaten Iowa. The win will likely catapult the Boilermakers to a No. 1 ranking next week, something that''s never been done in school history.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No. 2-ranked Purdue remained unbeaten, beating Iowa 77-70 in its Big Ten opener on Friday night at Mackey Arena, but the Boilermakers had to sweat it out right to the end.

Purdue frittered away a 13-point lead in the final four-plus minutes, and the Hawkeyes got within two points with 2:32 to go, but then the Hawkeyes failed to score on their final five trips and the Boilermakers hung on.

In the closing seconds, the fans at sold-out Mackey Arena started chanting "No. 1, No. 1.''  And for good reason, because the 8-0 Boilermakers are likely going to be the top-ranked team in the nation next week for the first time in school history.

“It’s definitely an accomplishment for us,” Purdue center Trevion Williams said. “This is history, man. It’s special. It shows that we’re special. But we don’t want to settle for that. We want to build off that. Once we become No. 1, we want to stay No. 1.”

Iowa came into the game leading the nation in scoring (94.0), with Purdue second at 92.6. But the Hawkeyes could manage just six field goals in the first 19 minutes and trailed 39-26 at the half. 

They were clearly missing star forward Keegan Murray, who couldn't go because of an ankle sprain suffered in Monday's win over Virginia. He averaged 24.6 points per game in their seven-game winning streak, second in the nation. 

Purdue led by a few possessions for most of the half, but when Iowa went nearly six minutes without a basket late in the half, Purdue built the lead to 17 points at 37-20.

Foul trouble started to be a concern for Purdue early in the second half, when Sasha Stefanovic and Jaden Ivey both picked up their third fouls in the span of nine seconds, and Purdue coach Matt Painter sat them both. 

Iowa cut the lead to seven at 39-32, but Purdue's Eric Hunter Jr. and Trevion Williams hit back-to-back three-pointers to ignite the sellout crowd at Mackey Arena. Mason Gillis hit another three for Purdue at the 11:37 mark, making it 55-43.

Then electric sophomore Jaden Ivey took over for Purdue, scoring eight quick points with three dunks and a pair of free throws, pushing the lead to 19 at 63-44.

Iowa's full-court press started to cause some issues for Purdue, and it helped get them back in the game. A 10-2 run cut the lead to 70-65 with 3:35 to go and Painter was forced to call another timeout. 

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But Purdue turned it over again after the timeout, failing to get the ball across halfcourt in time. Kris Murray hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to 70-68. Purdue's Trevion Williams was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Ivey led the Boilermakers with 19 points. Trevion Williams had 13 and Mason Gillis added 12.

'This was Purdue's fourth win over a top-40 team (North Carolina, Villanova, Florida State) already this season, and they seemed more battle-tested than Iowa, which opened with six wins, all against teams ranked 200 or worse in the rankings. 

Purdue was ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press preseason poll, but jumped up to No. 2 last week after the big wins over North Carolina and Villanova. It was the first time they had been ranked that high since March 7, 1988. 

Purdue has been ranked No. 2 for 10 weeks during its history, but the Boilermakers have never been ranked No. 1.

But with No, 1 Duke losing to Ohio State on Tuesday night, the path now looks clear to the top spot for the Boilermakers when the polls come out on Monday.

Purdue shot just 42 percent from the field, the first time all season that they were below 50 percent. And they still found a way to win.

"What kind of team are we when our shots don’t fall?" Williams said. "That’s something we work on daily just trying to figure out who we are with our identity. One thing we can control is our effort. I feel like we put in enough effort to get the job done. Shots didn’t fall and we got comfortable. This is a lesson. We got the win but we want to build off it."

Purdue is 8-0 now, and 1-0 in the Big Ten, with the back half of their December conference schedule coming on Thursday night at Rutgers.

So far, so good, but there lessons to be learned for sure after that torrid Iowa comeback.

"I told our team, I said this is a really good learning lesson for us," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "Most times in basketball when you learn these lessons — you lose. So hopefully we learned a hard lesson here while still winning.

"Iowa played really hard," Painter said. "Sure, we were careless with the ball. We weren’t consistent from a fundamental standpoint. We were too cute with our passes. We had to be simple and make fundamental plays. I know it sounds hokey but it came down to too many turnovers."