IOWA CITY, Iowa - There's no place to go but up for the Iowa men's basketball team - at least that's what Coach Fran McCaffery is hoping.
McCaffery said that Tuesday's 82-50 thumping at the hands of Wisconsin represented one of the worst performances by his teams during his five seasons with the Hawkeyes. And if you consider how down in the dumps the program was when he took it over, that said a lot.
The Hawkeyes will be attempting to win in West Lafayette for the first time since a 77-68 triumph on Feb. 1, 2006. They're trying to break a six-game losing streak in Mackey Arena in what is the teams' only regular-season meeting this year.
Purdue is one of the few teams that can match the Hawkeyes in height and length. The Boilermakers lead the conference in blocked shots (5.3) and rank third in rebounding margin (+6).
Purdue also matches up well with Iowa's depth having 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes a game and eight of them logging 16 or more. Nobody on the roster averages more than 28.3 (Edwards).
It's a big game for both teams in a tight Big Ten race. An Iowa loss puts it two games behind the division leaders in the loss column. The Boilermakers could tie their opponent in the standings and hold an important tiebreaker.
The Hawkeyes can lean on experience in bouncing back from tough losses this season. To prepare you for this Big Ten tilt, we bring you our Pre-Game Primer:
Records, Rankings, RPI: The Hawkeyes are 13-6 overall, 4-2 in the Big Ten, No. 25 in the AP and started Thursday at 41 in the RPI. Purdue is at 11-8, 3-3, unranked and at 110 in the RPI.
Previous Meeting: Iowa captured a hard-fought, 83-76 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the teams' lone meeting last season. The Hawkeyes committed a season-low five turnovers in that game while racking up 12 steals, their most in any conference game in 2013-14.
The Hawkeyes shot 26 of 36 from the foul line. Purdue was 14 of 21.
Statistical Leaders: Scoring - Aaron White, Iowa, 15.6 PPG; Kendall Stephens, Purdue, 10.9. Rebounds - White, Iowa, 6.8 RPG; A.J. Hammons, Purdue, 6.3. Assists - Mike Gesell, Iowa, 3.6 APG; Jon Octeus, Purdue, 2.7.
Common Opponents: Each of these teams has played North Florida at home, Wisconsin on the road and Minnesota (Iowa in Minneapolis and Purdue at Mackey). Both schools beat the Golden Gophers and lost in Madison. The Hawkeyes defeated North Florida while Purdue was upset.
Skinny: Iowa rose from the dead after back to back embarrassing losses to Iowa State and Northern Iowa last month. As bad as those beatings were, they paled in comparison to the mauling in Madison the other night.
The Hawkeyes forgot what helped them get to 4-1 in the league, sharing the ball on offense and defending for the entire shot clock. Tuesday, they shot the ball quickly after a pass or two and broke down consistently on the other end of the court.
The good news is Iowa shown an ability to play well against good teams, including sweep of Ohio State and winning at North Carolina. It really is a matter of sticking with their identity as a grind-it-out team.
Purdue also likes to get down and dirty on defense and play physical basketball. That should make Saturday's match-up a knock-down, drag-out affair.
The outcome could be determined by which team gets the other's big men in foul trouble. Rebounding and free throw shooting also will be important.
But I really believe this one will come down to who defends the three-point line the best. During conference play, the Hawkeyes rank 13th in three-point field goal defense (37.5 percent). Purdue is 11th (36.7). Iowa ranks 10th in treys made (32) while the Boilermakers are tied for last (29).
I think the Hawkeyes are better overall but Mackey is a tough place to play. Tough call but I have a hunch what happened at Wisconsin was more of an aberration than the norm for Iowa.
Prediction: IOWA 67, Purdue 63