WEST LAFAYETTE – Due to some snow and freezing rain in the area tonight, Mackey Arena was not full at tipoff and the atmosphere was (slightly) more muted than usual in the early going. That didn't stop Purdue from once again dominating in the first half of a home game. Much like earlier matchups against Virginia, Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers made life miserable for a talented Iowa team from the opening tip and raced out to an early 15-point lead, extending it to as many as 26 before the half was up.
That early lead came on the heels of a 17-0 Purdue run that took only 3:08 to complete and left Iowa shaken. The Boilermakers' ball movement during the spurt was impeccable, leading to a pair of 3-pointers from Sasha Stefanovic, who continues to light it up from the outside at Mackey Arena. The real star of the opening minutes was Trevion Williams, who did a little bit of everything: within the game's first two minutes, he had tossed a nice pass for an assist on a Stefanovic 3, scored in the post and stolen the ball at midcourt from an Iowa guard before lumbering the other way for a transition layup like an over-sized point guard.
Williams also had the honor (burden?) of guarding Iowa's Luka Garza, the Big Ten's leading scorer, for the early part of the half. After some initial success in that area, as well, Garza began heating up, using some wily post moves to get Williams off his feet. The Purdue center picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the half and went to the bench for the rest of the period. That's something to monitor in the second half as Williams' foul trouble could be one of Iowa's few paths to getting back into this game. Garza has done his part with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting in the first half, but the rest of the Hawkeyes haven't been much help, shooting just 35%.
In addition, Williams' foul trouble hasn't hurt because Matt Haarms is having a terrific game offensively. Painter called Haarms the best backup center in the country on Tuesday and the 7-foot-3 lefty is showing why tonight. He's dashing all around the court on defense, getting well out to cut off pick-and-rolls before sprinting back to the paint and on offense he's done a terrific job of sealing off defenders in the post for easy looks over the top. He's got 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
Not much went wrong for the Boilers in the first half. They were red-hot from downtown, going 11 for 20 on 3-point attempts, making five in a row late in the second half as Jahaad Proctor nailed back-to-back 3s near the 8-minute mark and struggling Aaron Wheeler even knocked one down. The Boilermakers have also made that hot shooting count as much as possible by maximizing their possessions: they've kept the turnovers to a bare minimum and dominated on the offensive glass. Purdue did not turn the ball over for the first time until 7:09 remained in the half and has only two giveaways at the half. The Boilermakers have also grabbed eight offensive rebounds, leading to 12 second-chance points.
It was a dominant performance in every facet, as Purdue shot 65% from the field and made one of the Big Ten's best teams look weak. However, Iowa is averaging 77 points in Big Ten play for a reason: this team is explosive and the Boilermakers surely can't keep shooting this well all night. Iowa will most likely make some kind of run in the second half, but if Purdue remains poised, a huge conference win is in their grasp.