IOWA CITY, Iowa - The environment proved as friendly as it had all year. The rims did not.
A large crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena cheered on Iowa, but the home team struggled to shoot in a 49-45 defensive battle against Purdue. The Hawkeyes missed 17 of 19 three-point attempts for the game and all nine tries from behind the arc in the second half.
"I saw two teams that defended as well as anybody in the country," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it was beautiful to watch our guys cover sets, cover people, rotate and do the things that they needed to do to cause the other teams to miss. I wish we could have found a way to generate some offense in those last few possessions, but my hat goes off to Purdue.
No. 20/23 Boilermakers improved to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the league. E'Twaun Moore led Purdue in scoring (16 points), rebounding (10) and assists (three). His teammate, JuJuan Johnson added 13 points. They defeated Iowa for the sixth time in the last seven meetings.
"In a grind-it-out possession type game, you have to have stops," Purdue Coach Matt Painter said. "We were able to get a lot of stops late in the game and that's very important to our team, being able to come in here and win a close game on the road. We were very fortunate to make a couple of good plays down the stretch and make our free throws."
The largest crowd of the season piled into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday. The announced attendance of 14,665 surpassed the 13,640 that showed up for Michigan State on Jan. 29.
The Hawkeyes (13-13, 3-10) lost their fifth conference game by four or fewer points. They also dropped their sixth game in their last seven outings.
"We're just looking forward to the next one," Iowa guard Jermain Davis said. "We know if we keep playing like we did tonight and get a little tougher, a little more consistency, we'll be rewarded.
"It's something different every night. This game we just couldn't get the firepower. Some people were kind of passing up shots that they normally take. We're going to get the wrinkles out."
The shots Iowa did take did not fall very often. The Hawkeyes were 17 of 47 (36.2 percent) from the floor. Purdue shot 20 of 43 (46.5) overall, but just 3 of 16 from three.
Iowa played without two players that began the season in the starting lineup. Point guard Jeff Peterson missed his first game with a hamstring strain suffered at Wisconsin on Wednesday. Center Cyrus Tate sat out his second game in a row and 10th of the Hawkeyes' last 11 with a high ankle sprain.
"(Peterson) said that he felt better, but I don't know," Lickliter said. "We're going to meet tomorrow (Sunday) and find out more. It's the same with Cyrus. It's interesting with him. It's up and down. It's caused by getting on it. He doesn't respond well to activity."
Lickliter said that it's been Tate's decision to sit out.
"The doctors are saying that if he can tolerate it he can go, but he didn't feel like he could tolerate it and be effective," Lickliter said. "You have to respect that. He's a tough guy. I know it's really sore, and those can linger."
Jake Kelly took over at the point for Iowa, scoring a game-high 17 points to go with five rebounds. The sophomore also ran into Purdue guard Chris Kramer's facemask late in the contest, suffering a cut above his eye that required three stitches.
Jarryd Cole started in place of Tate and scored 13 points to go with five rebounds. He connected on 4 of 5 shots from the floor and 5 of 6 from the line. He got two shots in the second half and his last one came on a made lay-up with 10:46 left in the game.
"Did we get him enough shots?,"" Lickliter said. "There isn't a guy on this team that wouldn't throw it to the open man. If he were open and they saw him, they would have thrown it to him every time. They probably threw it to him every time they saw him open. That's all you can ask them to do.
"One thing you have to realize is that our post guys need angles. We ask (the guards) to look in. There were times that they didn't, but they didn't do it intentionally. These guys are very unselfish. They'd pass it if they saw him."
Iowa's leading scorer Matt Gatens was held to four points on 2 of 13 shooting from the floor, including all four attempts from beyond the arc.
The Hawkeyes hung tough with Top 25 Purdue the whole day, but picked the wrong time to suffer through a scoring drought. The score was tied 41-41 with 5 minutes, 52 seconds to play. The Boilermakers outscored the home team 8-4 from there. Iowa went scoreless from the 4:38 mark to when there were 4 seconds left in the game.
The final spurt for Purdue started with Johnson swatting away a Kelly shot that resulted in a lay-up on the other end for Kramer. Aaron Fuller made it 44-43 visitors with a lay-in at the 4:48 mark. Gatens then had his shot blocked by Robbie Hummel on Iowa's next possession and Johnson knocked down a long jumper to make it a three-point spread.
Iowa then failed to get a shot off in :35 on its next possession and had to settle for a Davis forced three-point attempt that missed everything on the next trip. Keaton Grant hit 1 of 2 from the line after he got a offensive rebound to make it a four-point game and Kelly's lay-up cut it to 47-45 with :04 to play.
The Hawkeyes fouled Moore, who made two foul shots to seal the 49-45 victory.
"I have to credit them," Kelly said. "They played really good D. They made some tough shots. They made some plays down the stretch. They're a good team, and that's what they do."
The teams struggled mightily to score at the game's outset. They didn't reach double figures for scoring until Purdue took a 11-9 lead with 11:13 to play in the opening half.
The Boilermakers continued on a 12-2 run to go up 20-11 with 7:32 on the clock. Iowa responded with a 9-5 run of its own to close out the half. Cole scored six in the spurt as the teams headed to the locker room with Purdue leading, 25-20.
Cole scored eight points in the opening half, while Kelly added seven. Johnson paced the visitors with seven.