There’s much to like about Iowa this March. The Hawkeyes are deep and talented and possess one of the most efficient offenses in the entire country. Though, they struggle defensively and have let several marquee wins slip right through hands this season.
The cause for concern has been a three-game losing streak — Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana — No. 20 Iowa carried into Sunday’s game against Purdue, which had also lost three consecutive. The young Boilermakers gave Iowa a good fight inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, though they returned to West Lafayette with a four-straight defeat as Iowa became too much down the stretch in an 83-76 win on Sunday afternoon.
Purdue had it to a one-possession game on several occasions late in the game. Up one, Gabriel Olaseni kept a ball alive which led to a Josh Oglesby 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining. Roy Devyn Marble (21 points) stretched it to five with an old-school 3-point play. For the remaining 2:30, Iowa scored its points from the line.
Iowa was 8-for-10 from the line in the last several minutes. For the afternoon, the Hawkeyes shot 15 more free throws than the Boilermakers, connecting on 72 percent of their attempts. Iowa made 26 free throws. Purdue only took 21.
A look at Iowa’s schedule, before its three-game slide, and there is a lack of bad losses; all defeats came against tournament teams. Though the Hawkeyes had halftime leads over Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin — all away from home — and ended up losing those games by a combined 12 points. The Hawkeyes dropped another opportunity for a statement win against a shorthanded Michigan State squad on Jan. 28.
Iowa’s best wins are at Ohio State on Jan. 12 before the Buckeyes went in a tailspin and a thrashing against then-No. 10 Michigan, though two weeks later Iowa late-game execution and defensive woes sparked a three-game losing streak.
The Hawkeyes are back in the win column, but they can make a stronger impression on the rest of the nation on Thursday when they take on No. 18 Michigan State in East Lansing. Given how the Spartans played in a loss to Illinois on Saturday, Tom Izzo will have his guys ready to go. This is an opportunity for Iowa to avenge a loss earlier this season to Sparty, land another marquee win and get some momentum rolling as they head into the Big Ten Conference tournament.