A young, rebuilding Iowa program learned first hand on Sunday that life in the grueling Big Ten is unforgiving. After putting up a valiant effort against No. 2 Ohio State earlier in the week, 10th-ranked Purdue overwhelmed the Hawkeyes.
Iowa looked out of sync and a step slow most of the game. The visitors also allowed the Boilermakers to be the aggressor and the Hawkeyes looked intimidated at times.
There were few bright spots in Iowa's 75-52 loss in West Lafayette. Seldom-used back-up Devon Archie grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. The Indianapolis native was one of the few Hawkeyes that matched the energy of the home team.
Fans can expect this type of performanceby the Hawkeyes from time to time this season, especially on the road. They're playing catch-up with some of the top programs in the country residing in the Big Ten. They're also capable of pushing top squads as they did on Wednesday in a 73-68 setback to the Buckeyes in Iowa City.
To do that, Iowa needs strong contributions from its top players. That didn't happen on Sunday. Matt Gatens scored a team-high 13 points but most of them came in garbage time. Melsahn Basabe, who scored a career-best 22 and 13 rebounds against Ohio State, was held to eight and three while turning it over four times in 19 minutes on Sunday.
Iowa also needed mature play from junior point guard Bryce Cartwright against the disciplined Boilermakers. It didn't happen.
Cartwright's decision making was poor. He committed four turnovers with only three assists and shot 2 of 10 from the floor in 29 minutes.
Iowa sophomore Eric May, who missed much of the last two weeks with a groin injury, struggled in his return on Sunday. The Dubuque native scored three points and grabbed two boards in 17 minutes.
The Hawkeyes fell behind 11-0 to start the game. Purdue built an 18-point, first-half lead before Iowa scored the last two hoops before the intermission to go into the locker room with some momentum.
The Boilermakers responded by building a 21-point advantage six minutes into the second half and the rout was on.
"I came off the floor thinking we can't play much worse and we're only down 14," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said during his radio post-game interview. "The second half was disappointing. We didn't play with the level of competitiveness that you need to play with to beat the No. 10-ranked team on the road, plain and simple. So, that's something we have to learn to get better at."
Purdue hit the Hawkeyes with a solid game plan. The Boilermakers doubled Basabe when he got the ball in the post and pushed out on Gatens and May on the perimeter.
"I thought we did a good job in the first half of just not letting them shoot threes," Matt Painter said in his radio post-game interview. "With May and Gatens, especially Gatens with the way he's shot the basketball in the last five games, it was very important that we didn't let them get going. Then we did a good job on the point of making Cartwright work for everything and not letting them roll into their sets. We wanted to pressure them and not let them have that offensive flow."
Iowa slipped to 7-8 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois (66.7 percent ), Ohio State (55.4) and Purdue (49.2), all ranked teams, have shot the ball well from the floor against the Hawkeyes.