The Journal Gazette
Friday, December 03, 2021 1:00 am

High-scoring Iowa to test Purdue

No. 2 Boilers could ascend to No. 1

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

“We want Duke!”

Those were the chants ringing out from the Mackey Arena rafters Tuesday as No. 2 Purdue completed a thorough dismantling of Florida State to improve to 7-0. The Blue Devils are the No. 1 team in the country and the Purdue faithful were pining for a chance to measure their team against the best.

But if the Boilers beat Iowa tonight in West Lafayette, teams across the country could be chanting “We want Purdue” next week. With Duke's loss to Ohio State on Tuesday, it's likely the Boilermakers are one win away from claiming the top spot in the AP Poll for the first time in program history.

“It's like getting in the NCAA Tournament and saying, 'We want to go to the Final Four,'” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Like, yeah, no s---, everyone wants to go the Final Four, but you better win the first game. It's processed-based, not results based. Don't think about, 'Hey, I want to (be No. 1),' you better think about transition defense and ball-screen defense and taking care of the basketball.”

Purdue will have to be thinking plenty about its defense because it will be facing one of the best offenses in the country in its Big Ten opener.

The Hawkeyes (7-0) feature the top scoring offense in college basketball at 94 points per game on better than 50% shooting, with three 100-point performances under their belts.

The Hawkeyes like to push the ball offensively at every opportunity, which will make limiting turnovers a priority for the Boilermakers, unless they want to suffer in transition.

Despite winning by 28 against Florida State, the Boilermakers were somewhat loose with the ball in the open court and the Seminoles piled up a 25-12 advantage in points off turnovers.

“They're a really great transition team. They like to get paint touches and kick out to their shooters,” Purdue guard Isaiah Thompson said. “If we do a good job of jamming the ball and not allowing kick-aheads, that'll be a really big factor in the game.”

Purdue is no slouch on offense in its own right, ranking just one spot behind Iowa in scoring at No. 2 nationally.

The Boilermakers have surpassed 90 points in six of their seven games and are No. 1 in field goal percentage at 54.5% with 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey leading the way at nearly 74% shooting.

Purdue's interior offense has been superior – centers Edey and Trevion Williams are scoring 29 points per game – and that has opened space for its cadre of talented shooters on the perimeter. The Boilermakers are second in the nation in 3-point shooting at 44.2%, but Painter warned his team will be most sorely tested when those shots are not falling.

“That is the question that needs to be answered,” Painter said. “As a coach, you don't want it to happen, you want to shoot well, but that's part of basketball, the ball doesn't always go in. Can we be good enough in other areas?”

The most important “other area” for the Boilermakers tonight will be slowing down Iowa 6-8 sophomore Keegan Murray, the second-leading scorer in the country at 24.6 points per contest on 61% shooting to go along with 8.9 rebounds per game. 

Blackhawk Christian graduate Caleb Furst will be the player guarding Murray most often for Purdue, at least to start, but holding down the dynamic forward will be an all-out effort.

“It falls on everybody,” Painter said of defending Murray. “We do a lot of different switching and things, so everybody is going to have their hand (in it). He's been very impressive. His ability to catch and shoot, to drive the basketball, to spin off contact to play into the low-to-mid post really put teams in binds.”

Purdue vs. Iowa

When: 9 p.m. today

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette

Records: No. 2 Purdue (7-0), Iowa (7-0)

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM

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