Purdue seemed to have played itself out of the Big Ten race after losing three straight last month. A six-game winning streak and a big road victory in its last game, however, have put the Boilermakers right back in the middle of things.
Sixth-ranked Purdue looks to continue its recent strong play Saturday and post a seventh straight victory over visiting Iowa.
The Boilermakers (20-3, 8-3) opened the Big Ten season with a 67-56 win over Iowa on Dec. 29 and followed with two more victories to get to 14-0, but they dropped the next three games - only one to a ranked team. However, they have bounced back with six consecutive wins and return to Mackey Arena following road victories over Indiana and No. 10 Michigan State.
A 76-64 victory over the Spartans on Tuesday moved Purdue within a half-game of first place in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers ended Michigan State’s 18-game home winning streak and handed the Spartans their worst loss at the Breslin Center in four years.
Purdue’s defense has made good strides after allowing at least 70 points in four consecutive games, giving up an average of 60.2 in the last five. The Boilermakers limited Michigan State to 32.1-percent shooting, including 5 of 19 from 3-point range.
Purdue shot a season-high 56.8 percent and E’Twaun Moore had a season-best 25 points to go with six assists. He was 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
“He is a very confident player and when he lets the game come to him he can quietly score 25 points,” coach Matt Painter said of Moore, the Big Ten’s fifth-leading scorer at 17.5 per game. “He made some big plays tonight and some big shots. He has worked on his game and has come a long way, which has put him in a good position.”
Moore had 21 points at Iowa in December, but Purdue trailed at halftime and couldn’t shake the Hawkeyes until late in the second half en route to its sixth straight win in the series.
While Purdue leads the Big Ten with 75.0 points per game, Iowa (9-16, 3-9) averages a conference-low 61.8.
The Hawkeyes, however, are coming off their highest-scoring conference game of the season and snapped a four-game losing streak with a 78-65 win over Northwestern on Wednesday. Iowa went 12 of 24 from 3-point range and made at least half of its field-goal attempts for the first time in Big Ten play.
“I think there’s a lot to be said about guys who don’t give up and persevere,” coach Todd Lickliter said. “We’ve been playing good basketball yet being disappointed and they don’t get discouraged.”
Matt Gatens scored 16 points and Devan Bawinkel added 15, shooting 5 of 8 beyond the arc.
Bawinkel, averaging 3.7 points, had seen his minutes reduced in recent weeks because of shooting struggles. He had gone scoreless in 16 minutes in his previous game.
While Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson all average more than 14 points for Purdue, Gatens is the only Iowa player in double figures with 12.2 per game.
Anthony Tucker averaged 11.9 points in 11 games, but the Hawkeyes announced Friday that he was released from his scholarship. Tucker has been suspended since December after pleading guilty to public intoxication - his second alcohol-related offense.
Iowa has lost 16 straight to ranked opponents since a 43-36 win over then-No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 12, 2008.