But, as the Boilermakers have done far too often, they fell asleep. A stretch of six minutes and 11 seconds saw Purdue go silent while Iowa regained control. The hard charge early in the second half was balanced out by the inconsistent Boilermakers.
Iowa would escape with an 83-76 victory. Purdue can look back at when its open window went shut.
"We just have to do a better job in key opportunities—when we get key opportunities—to take care of the ball," Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
There were far too many miscues for the Boilermakers, namely poor play at point guard.
Ronnie Johnson and Bryson Scott combined to go 0-of-9 from the field with 11 turnovers and just five assists. This countered strong performances from A.J. Hammons—who had 16 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes—plus double-figure scoring totals from Rapheal Davis, Kendall Stephens, Errick Peck and Terone Johnson.
There were plenty of positives for Purdue to take away. It was a strong overall effort, one which the Boilermakers almost stole a win away.
"It shows what we're capable of," said sophomore guard Rapheal Davis.
But capability only means so much for a team mired in consistent play. If Purdue could play close to its potential each game, its record wouldn't be 15-14 overall and 5-11 in Big Ten play.
The game plan against a high-scoring Iowa team was to slow down the pace of the game, playing careful, smart basketball. Purdue simply couldn't let the Hawkeyes run. But that's exactly what happened.
Purdue gave the ball away 16 times, and Iowa converted those opportunities into 18 points. Dangerous in transition, the Hawkeyes made those mistakes the difference in the game.
"It was them pretty much just playing the passing lanes," said Hammons.
Hammons played a career-high 36 minutes, posting an impressive double-double while not recording a turnover. It was his most impressive, consistent performance of the season. He battled through a second-half ankle injury, recognizing his team's lack of depth at center.
"Him just staying in there and fighting, I thought he did a good job for us," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "He's made some strides."
Added Hammons: "I just played for my team, because I knew I didn't really have a sub."
It was an admirable effort for a Purdue team many thought had quit. Still, Iowa was just too much.
The Hawkeyes received 21 points from senior guard Roy Devyn Marble, arguable the Big Ten's Player of the Year. Aaron White and Mike Gesell each added 15 points, while Josh Oglesby had 11. It was just another solid overall offensive performance from a tournament-bound Iowa team.
Purdue's season won't end in the NCAA Tournament, and likely not even the NIT. At times, it has looked worthy of a tournament bid. But losses like this, stemmed by inconsistent play, will keep the Boilermakers home during March's madness.