Iowa picked a bad time for one of its worst games in recent years.
The No. 17 Hawkeyes trailed by 25 points at halftime in an embarrassing 104-68 defeat against Purdue in Big Ten Conference play at West Lafayette, Ind., on Wednesday.
Iowa (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) battled defensive lapses and a lack of scoring in their most lopsided loss in 121 meetings with the Boilermakers. Oddly, the Hawkeyes showed no signs of a total letdown after winning six of their previous seven games, including defeating No. 19 Illinois on Sunday.
They now have three days to work out some kinks before hosting Nebraska on Saturday before a sold-out Senior Night crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
“I think you have to be honest with yourself. ‘Did I give the best effort? Could I have done better?'” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after the Purdue loss. “But you can’t let that linger. You can’t keep talking about it. OK, it’s one game. We got our ears pinned back. You’ve got to grow, and you’ve got to be tougher in the next week. That’s what this league is.”
The Boilermakers looked like one of the top teams in the conference after knocking down 19 3-pointers and totaling 29 assists on their 41 baskets against the Hawkeyes.
Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp said the Hawkeyes must shore up their perimeter defense if they want to make a run at the conference title.
“If you’re a college basketball player, most of the time you’re going to be able to knock down threes,” he said. “And for the most part, we were giving them open looks that kind of got them going early. And for any shooter, once you see a couple go in, they’re going to continue to shoot with confidence.”
Luka Garza’s strong play was one of the few positives in the blowout loss. The junior forward finished with 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting in 31 minutes. Garza is the first Iowa player since Fred Brown in 1971 to score at least 20 points in eight straight Big Ten games.
Nebraska (7-15, 2-9) enters Saturday’s game with a seven-game losing streak, including losing all seven games this season on the road.
“This is all part of the process,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said of his team’s skid. “This is all part of the good times and the bad times we have to learn from. We have to be better moving forward this year and certainly into next year.
The Cornhuskers must avoid a slow start due to the Hawkeyes’ motivation to atone for the Purdue loss, playing on Senior Night and looking to avenge a 76-70 defeat at Nebraska on Jan. 7.
Cam Mack and Thorir Thorbjarnarson led the way in the win over Iowa, with Mack registering 15 points and 10 assists and Thorbjarnarson adding 17 points and nine rebounds. Mack sat out the first four minutes of last Saturday’s loss to Penn State for being late to a film session.
The Cornhuskers held Garza to 16 points, but he managed 18 rebounds in the loss.
–Field Level Media