A roller-coaster season for Iowa has dipped again.
Purdue knocked off the Hawkeyes Saturday, 67-63, in West Lafayette. It wrapped up an 0-2, five-day stretch for Iowa, who last week was tied for the fewest losses in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes (13-7 overall, 4-3 conference) fought until the end against Purdue but they didn't play well enough to win. They suffered through a nine-minute stretch in the first-half when they scored one basket.
"We had some really good looks in that stretch but then we had some goofy turnovers," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "Defensively, we were just OK in that stretch. Our zone was better than our man but neither was great. That's why they got a double-digit lead. You don't want to be in a situation where you're on the road and your giving a double-digit lead up."
The visitors hung in a game in which they shot 21 of 64 (32.8 percent) from the floor by outrebounding Purdue, 46-31, including 24-9 on the offensive glass. Iowa senior Gabe Olaseni pulled down a career-high 16 boards (11 on offense). Point Guard Mike Gesell paced Iowa with a season-high 18 points
At that point, Iowa reverted to the pitfalls that sunk it in Madison. The Hawkeyes took poor shots early in their offensive sets, turned it over and allowed those things to affect their defense in a negative manner.
Purdue (12-8, 4-3) scored the game's next nine points to take an 11-10 lead with 14:03 left in the first half. Adding injury to insult during that run, Iowa's leading scorer and rebounder, Aaron White, suffered what would later be classified as a "stinger" going for a steal. The team captain, who was was called for a foul on the play, tried to return but the pain proved to be too much.
White played just seven minutes. He and McCaffery said after the game that they thought he could return to action when the Hawkeyes next play, Jan. 31 against Wisconsin, but they'll need to see how he responds to treatment this week.
Kendall Stephens, the Boilermakers leading scorer, did not start Saturday after injuring his finger at Illinois on Wednesday. The sophomore was limited to 15 minutes against Iowa but tied Vince Edwards for the lead the team with four assists.
The teams jostled back and forth for the next few minutes and were tied at 14-14 with 12:28 to play in the first half. Purdue then closed out the opening 20 minutes on an 20-10 run for a 34-24 lead at the intermission. After the Hawkeyes led 10-2, they were outscored, 32-14, for the remainder of the half.
"We're going to try to keep working and trying to get those little lulls out of our game," Iowa Point Guard Mike Gesell said on the Hawkeye Radio Network post-game show. "In the first half, we had a stretch where we couldn't hit anything. We weren't getting stops and that's when Purdue got the lead on us. That's something we're going to try to work on and try to put a complete 40-minute game together."
The visitors put together a good final 20 minutes and almost overcame their first-half collapse. Anthony Clemmons connected on a pair of clutch three-pointers and Gesell took over from there.
With his team trailing 56-51 at the 7:17 mark of the second half, Gesell knocked down a jumper to begin a spurt when he scored 12 points in a row for his team. He drove through the tall Boilermakers for lay-ups and capped the run with a hoop that put the Hawkeyes ahead, 63-62, with 1:18 to play.
McCaffery said he set up the defense to take away talented Purdue big man A.J. Hammons. The alignment left open guard Raphael Davis, who swished in a deep trey with the shot clock running out. The home team regained the lead at 65-63 with :45 left.
Gesell then missed a jumper before a pair of Basil Smotherman free throws sandwiched around a Peter Jok missed three-pointer stretched the Boilermaker lead to 67-63. Iowa's comeback had fallen short.
"We played great defense that possession," Gesell said. "Davis just knocked down a big-time shot. I think if he misses that shot, we come away with the W."
Instead, the Hawkeye season sits in a precarious place a week after they moved to 4-1 in the Big Ten following a win against Ohio State completed a season sweep of the Buckeyes. They play host to first-place Wisconsin next Saturday not knowing if White will be available.
Following its meeting with the Badgers, Iowa travels to Michigan on Feb. 5 before playing host to a very talented Maryland squad three days later. It's looking like a very critical stretch for the Hawkeyes after dropping one to a Purdue team that began Saturday ranked 110 in the RPI.