Although Purdue has won seven straight in this series and Iowa has lost 20 in a row to ranked opponents, the Boilermakers are not going to take the Hawkeyes lightly Sunday. Not after witnessing Iowa nearly upset the nation’s second-ranked team.
Purdue looks to open Big Ten play with four consecutive wins for the first time in 15 years when they host the young Hawkeyes.
The No. 11 Boilermakers (14-1, 3-0) are in the midst of their longest winning streak over Iowa since also reeling off seven in a row from 1974-77. Purdue, which has never won eight straight in the series, hasn’t lost to the Hawkeyes since Feb. 21, 2007.
In the teams’ last meeting Feb. 13, the Boilermakers won 63-40 at Mackey Arena behind JaJuan Johnson’s 21 points and E’Twaun Moore’s 11.
Johnson and Moore are one of the nation’s top scoring tandems, but half of that dynamic scoring duo had an off night in an 83-68 win over Penn State on Wednesday. Johnson, who averages a team-best 19.6 points, had 15 points and 15 rebounds, but Moore missed eight of 10 shots and finished with a season-low four points - 15.3 below his average.
With Moore struggling to find his shot, junior Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson stepped up for the Boilermakers, winners of nine straight. Smith finished with a career-high 20 points on 5-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, while Jackson had a career-high 17 points.
“The game was important for our team’s confidence in guys other than E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson to make plays,” coach Matt Painter said. “E’Twaun didn’t force the issue, and other guys stepped up. It was great for our team.”
Despite receiving little offensive production from Moore, Purdue hit the 80-point mark for the third consecutive game - all in the Big Ten - after reaching that total three times in 12 non-conference games.
The offensive outburst has helped the Boilermakers open conference play with three straight wins for the first time since 2002-03. They haven’t started 4-0 in the Big Ten since 1995-96.
The Hawkeyes (7-7, 0-2) have lost 16 of 20 league games since the start of last season, but there is a feeling of optimism in Iowa City.
After opening the Big Ten slate with an 87-77 loss to then-No. 23 Illinois on Dec. 29, Iowa put a scare into No. 2 Ohio State on Tuesday before falling 73-68. The Hawkeyes led by six at halftime and trailed by two with 24 seconds left.
“I think we’re improving,” first-year Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “From the Illinois game to the Ohio State game, we were better. We’re not where we need to be.”
The Hawkeyes matched up well against Ohio State. They outrebounded the Buckeyes 34-30 and freshman forward Melsahn Basabe had a career-high 22 points along with 13 rebounds and six blocks.
Basabe is emerging as a force in the middle for the Hawkeyes, averaging 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in his last six games after posting 7.5 points and 5.9 boards in his first eight.
“We watched them play Ohio State, and we saw how physical Iowa was and how hard Iowa played. That says a lot,” Painter said. “Our guys respect Iowa.”
Still, the Hawkeyes need to prove they can beat some top teams. They haven’t defeated a ranked opponent since knocking off then-No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 12, 2008, and have lost 14 in a row against Top 25 teams on the road since beating then-No. 24 Indiana on Feb. 11, 2006.