The Hawkeyes came into the contest probably needing a three wins in three days to advance to their third consecutive Big Dance. Iowa had stomped on the Boilermakers by 19 points a little more than two weeks ago.
The formula pointed to a first-round match-up of the fourth and fifth seeds being a knockdown, drag-out affair. Unfortunately, only one team was motivated by the circumstances.
Iowa looked lifeless for the better part of its 74-55 drubbing at the hands of the Boilermakers Friday at the United Center. Timeout after timeout, the Hawkeye coaches hollered, screamed, begged and pleaded for an inspired effort. What they received is a deer in the headlights look.
Nowhere else did the lackluster effort prove more magnified than on the defensive end of the floor. Iowa looked at times to be clearing the middle for a Boilermaker stroll to the hoop. Purdue dunked on the Hawkeyes and zapped what little spirit they had.
You might scratch your head thinking about a team that beat a team by 19 two weeks ago taking one on the chin like it did on Friday. This game will not be broadcasted by Robert Stack on Unsolved Mysteries. The Hawkeyes left their hearts in Iowa City or Carver-Hawkeye or somewhere in Rockford.
Steve Alford said on Monday that his team and the players returning next season needed to buy into playing defense as did last year's group that won the Big Ten Tournament and 25 games. The Hawkeyes showed on Friday that they need that point driven home a little more in the off-season.
Listen, I like Seth Gorney. He's a nice kid. But his help-side defense is about as consistent as a fast food sandwich. Cyrus Tate wasn't any better on Friday. Kurt Looby offers strong defense but his offense is as consistent as Gorney's defense.
The lack of step on the interior defense resulted in Carl Landry exacting revenge for a nine-point effort in Iowa City, which was the only game this season where he failed to reach double figures. The Purdue senior punched up 20 points and 11 rebounds.
"We really didn't have a different game plan for him or match up with him any differently," said Gorney, who finished with two points and no rebounds. "In Carver, we kind of figured out his game. He played with a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to come out and show that he was better than that (nine points at Iowa).
"Coach told us he was going to come in pumped. It just seemed like he played way beyond what we expected. We had high expectations for him. I guess they just weren't high enough."
I spoke with Gorney, Mike Henderson, Tony Freeman and Adam Haluska in the locker room, and to a man, they were most disappointed in their effort on Friday. They found out what Purdue felt like after playing at Carver.
"Our emotions were not on the same level as theirs (were)," Henderson said. "It showed in the categories. They out rebounded us and made all of the hustle plays. They fed off of that."
I can remember several times where an Iowa player(s) watched a Boilermaker dive on the floor for a loose ball right in front of him. Purdue held a 38-29 advantage on the boards.
In addition to a sub-par effort, Iowa lost the mental battle. The Hawkeyes, who led the league with a 75.4 percent team free throw percentage, shot 12 of 24 on Friday.
"It's disappointing because of the effort," said Haluska, who led the Big Ten in scoring this season, but finished with just 14 points on 4 of 16 shooting from the floor. "It was just a poor effort all around. It wasn't one of our better games, and it was sad that it had to happen today."
It's tough to figure out why the effort wasn't there. Iowa needed wins to keep the NCAA dream alive. They showed about as much urgency as Rosie O'Donnell leaving the sundae bar at Old Country Buffet.
"There's really just no excuse," Henderson said. "We didn't hustle. We didn't communicate on defense. That's what gets you beat."
Iowa trimmed its deficit to 11 points three times in the final 10 minutes of the game and seemed to be gaining momentum. Purdue answered on each occasion and squelched the spurts.
"Every time we made a run, they made a run," Freeman said. "They were the tougher team. They were more hungry than we were. We put a beating on them at home and they put a beating on us here. I guess what goes around comes on around."
Freeman sensed his team was at an emotional disadvantage as the Hawkeyes prepared for Friday's game.
"In warm-ups, we weren't as hyped up as we usually are, especially at home," Freeman said. "They were out there talking trash. They were the aggressor in this game."
With the NCAA out of the window, Iowa waits to see if a NIT bid is forthcoming on Sunday night. Iowa believes it still has something to prove.
"If we get there, we're looking at getting some wins away from home; showing that we can win away from home and it's not like we win at Carver and that's it," Gorney said.
If they want to show anybody anything, the Hawkeyes better put forth a little bit more effort than they did on Friday. If not, the N.I.T. visit will be a blip on the radar.