They had lost an overtime heartbreaker at top-ranked Illinois not 41 hours before their 1:30pm tipoff against Purdue, so they had to have some fatigue in their legs. The emotional baggage from such a tough loss could also be taken into consideration, and yet another ill-timed winter storm would contribute to a less than packed Carver Hawkeye Arena.
But it just so happened that a Thunderstorm broke out over the River City, as in five first half dunks from ‘Thunder' Doug Thomas, as Iowa blew the doors off of the Boilermakers and played the majority of the game with a double-digit lead, finally beating Purdue 71-57.
Iowa used their transition game effectively for the first time in a long time, and Thomas was the recipient of many pretty passes. Though Thomas might be somewhat limited in the half court game, he is excellent at running the floor and he certainly knows how to finish.
His high-flying act excited the crowd, as well as his teammates. Purdue called a timeout after his fifth dunk of the first half, which was set up by great defense and a deflection from Jeff Horner, who then flipped the ball to Cartlon Reed as he was falling out of bounds, and Reed found the trailing Thomas on a nifty behind-the-back pass for a monster slam.
The Iowa bench erupted and mobbed Thomas out on the court, and the entire team has smiles plastered on their faces, something that was great to see and that has been missing for far too long.
One could say that the last three half's of basketball put forth by the Hawkeyes are among their best of the season, or at least equaling their output in Maui against Louisville and Texas.
It came at just the right time, as Iowa had fallen to 1-3 in the league.
Iowa committed just eight turnovers against the Boilermakers and their stifling defense forced 19 turnovers. Iowa scored 18 points off of those Boiler gaffes, compared to just five points that Purdue netted from Iowa's turnovers.
Thomas scored 14 points for the game and grabbed nine rebounds. Greg Brunner matched Thomas' team high point total and grabbed 11 rebounds of his own. Iowa had 18 offensive rebounds, four more than the Boilermakers. Iowa had assists on 20 of their 27 field goals, which is an excellent percentage.
Jeff Horner scored 13 points and had three assists. Pierre Pierce was held to just eight points, the first game of the season where he has not scored in double figures. But Pierce had a team high eight assists to just two turnovers.
The sore spot for Iowa was that they made just 12 of 21 free throw (57-percent) and they allowed Purdue to make 8 of 16 three-point shots, although most of those three's came late in the game when Iowa's lead was fluctuating between 17 and 21 points.
JON MILLER'S INSTANT ANALYSIS
Might this be the game that rights Iowa's ship? I think a lot of people expected the Hawkeyes to come out flat to start this game, given that the Thursday night loss at Illinois was in overtime and it exacted a physical and emotional toll.
But that was not the case, as Iowa jumped out to an 18-8 lead early in the contest and then just extended that lead for the rest of the day. Sure, Purdue is not a great basketball team this year, as they have been hit hard by injuries and they also were saddled with early foul problems on some of their key players, but Steve Alford substituted earlier in this game than he has in recent games, helping Pierre Pierce, Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner get a rest.
Iowa's bench responded by scoring 21 points. I don't know if that is a season high, but it has to be close.
Will this be the game that gives Doug Thomas the confidence to mix it up for the rest of the year? To me, though his 14 points were nice and his dunks were impressive, his nine rebounds is the statistic that I liked the most from this game. Four of his nine boards were on the offensive glass.
Another thing that I liked to see is that on a night where Pierce took a ‘mundane' eight shot attempts, he still found a way to play great basketball with the eight assists and solid defense, and he did not force the action on the offensive end.
Iowa has a chance over the course of the next two games to keep this positive momentum rolling. The game at Northwestern is never easy, but I feel better about Iowa's chances having played a lot of grinding and mucking teams over the course of the last month. Lets hope the experience they gained in playing against Air Force and SLU comes to bear against the Cats, and then its back home to play the surging Indiana Hoosiers.
Iowa is 14-4, just one game off of my pre-season predicted record of 15-3 through eighteen games. They are ranked in the Top 25, and likely will be come Monday afternoon.
They have 11 regular season games remaining, and they need to win six of those games to get to 20 wins, a mark that should be good enough for an NCAA bid this year. But they want to do better than that, and after watching the last 60 minutes of Iowa basketball, I think that they can.