IOWA CITY, Iowa - The way things had been going for Iowa, it needed a win. Any kind would do.
The Hawkeyes ground out a 83-76 victory on Sunday against a pesky Purdue team sitting at the back end of the Big Ten. The Boilermakers won the rebound battle and shot the ball better than Iowa but the home team came out on top in the most important category, the final score.
"It feels a little better to know that you went back to work, you put a game plan together, executed the game plan," said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery, whose team had lost a season-high three games in a row. "They made mistakes. Every time you put a game plan together, there are going to be mistakes. But do we have enough toughness and talent and togetherness and character to go get the W? That's what we had."
The No. 20 Hawkeyes (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten) positioned themselves to win each of the games in the three-loss stretch. They failed to make plays at the end while their opponents did.
Sunday, Purdue (15-14, 5-11) overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to grab a four-point lead with 11:21 left. The Boilermakers scored on seven of their first eight possessions after the intermission.
Unlike the previous three games, and other contests where it wilted down the stretch, Iowa picked itself up. Adam Woodbury threw in an off-handed hook shot and Aaron White, who was 3 of 15 on three pointers in conference play, knocked down a trey. The Hawkeyes were ahead, 65-64, and never trailed again.
"It was a gut check. There's no question about that," McCaffery said. "We showed a lot of character. There's no question."
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell, who has missed some key free throws late in games this season, converted in the clutch Sunday. The sophomore sank 6 of 8 foul shots in the final two minutes to seal the victory.
"Every time I step on the floor I feel like I'm improving as a player," Gesell said. "I'm the type of guy that's competitive. I want the ball at the end of the game to make plays or pass it off to my teammates."
Marble continued his impressive senior season with 21 points and five assists without a turnover. He's registered 10 assists without turning it over in the last two games.
Gesell and White added 15 points apiece and Josh Oglesby had 11 for the winners. White pulled down 10 rebounds.
A.J. Hammons scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Purdue. The Boilermakers out-rebounded Iowa, 40-33, and shot 49.1 percent from the floor compared to 43.4 for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa moved a step closer to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005-06, Sunday, with a victory it badly needed. It returns to action on Thursday with a game at Michigan State before finishing up the regular season by playing host to Illinois on Saturday.
"Today was a big win for us," Gesell said. "We needed some of that confidence back to get us right back on track."
TIP-INS: ·Iowa has recorded 20 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004-05/2005-06…Iowa improved to 8-1 in Big Ten play when sinking at least five 3-pointers…Iowa's 5 turnovers ties for the fewest turnovers by an Iowa team under McCaffery…White registered his second consecutive double-double (15 points, 10 boards). This is his fifth double-double of the season and 13th of his career…Marble has scored 20+ points in 5 of the last 6 games marking the best stretch of his career...Marble has moved up to No. 7 on Iowa's all-time career scoring list. He moves past Jess Settles.