IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—Purdue got its first glimpse into how tough the road will be in the Big Ten—a conference where even cellar dwellers like Iowa can make things difficult for visitors.
E’Twaun Moore scored 21 points, 15 in the second half, and the fourth-ranked Boilermakers overcame a sluggish start to beat Iowa 67-56 on Tuesday night for its best start in 16 seasons.
Robbie Hummel added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Boilermakers (12-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who have opened with 12 straight wins for the second time. Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson led Purdue to a school-record 14-0 start in 1993-94.
It wasn’t the blowout many expected the Big Ten’s only unbeaten team to administer to last-place Iowa, though.
Purdue trailed by one point at halftime and led 40-36 midway through the second half. But Moore keyed a 13-2 run with three straight baskets, helping the Boilermakers push their lead to 53-38 with 8:41 left.
Purdue shot a blistering 65.2 percent in the second half, and it needed just about every one of those baskets to put away the Hawkeyes (5-8, 0-1).
“Our league, it’s stacked, and we talked to our guys about how every single night, it’s going to be tough,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Our league is very good. Any time you can win on the road in the Big Ten, it’s an accomplishment.”
Aaron Fuller had a season-high 15 points for Iowa, which proved to be more than just a tuneup for the Boilermakers before their New Year’s Day showdown with No. 6 West Virginia.
Purdue eventually wore down the inexperienced Hawkeyes, but the Boilermakers had trouble shaking Iowa until Moore starting hitting from the perimeter midway through the second half.
Moore made two jumpers and a 3 to help push the lead to 47-38 with just under 11 minutes left, and his teammates quickly got into the act. Keaton Grant buried a 3-pointer and reserve Mark Wohlford, left wide open on the elbow, calmly hit a 3 to put Purdue ahead 53-38.
Iowa got as close as 59-51 with 4:28 left, but Moore’s three-point play and JaJuan Johnson’s turnaround floater kept the Hawkeyes from getting any closer.
Purdue appeared to be looking ahead to its date with the Mountaineers in the early going, falling behind 15-6. Sparkplug Chris Kramer’s steal and dunk keyed a Purdue run that tied the game at 20, and Moore’s floater gave the Boilermakers their first lead, 24-22, with 1:58 left in the first half.
The Boilermakers shot 11 of 30 in the opening half and had just two assists — both by Moore. They doubled that total just 80 seconds into the second half as Grant found a cutting Hummel for a layup and Johnson for a dunk.
Though Iowa quickly tied the game, that halftime lead was the last one the Hawkeyes held. Freshman Eric May had 11 points and eight rebounds for Iowa.
“It’s always tough to play in an environment like this,” Hummel said. “We were lucky to just play well enough to win.”
Although beating Iowa hardly seemed like a major accomplishment given how poorly the Hawkeyes have started, it’s still a positive sign for the Boilermakers.
Purdue closed out the 2008-09 regular season with a 1-4 stretch in league road games—and the Boilermakers play four of their first six Big Ten games away from home. If Purdue hopes to capture its first Big Ten regular season title since 1996, it’s imperative for the Boilermakers to establishing a winning road presence in conference play.
Besides, losing to the hapless Hawkeyes would have been a tough pill to swallow for any team with Final Four aspirations.
Iowa lost four players to transfers last spring and started four underclassmen Tuesday. The Hawkeyes played without their second-leading scorer, guard Anthony Tucker, who plead guilty Monday to public intoxication following his arrest last week.
Tucker, who has been on an indefinite suspension since his arrest, also pleaded guilty to public intoxication in December 2008. Last January, Tucker was ruled academically ineligible to play but returned to the Hawkeyes this season.
Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said he has yet to make a decision on Tucker’s status.
“I think there’s always a chance of something to happen. I just want what’s best for young people and we’ll try to do what’s best for Anthony,” Lickliter said after the game.
Purdue’s defense was simply too much for Iowa’s thin backcourt, which committed 12 of the Hawkeyes’ 16 turnovers.
“I thought our guys did a good job of staying with the basketball, pressuring the basketball and then really taking advantage of their lack of depth at the point guard position,” Painter said.