— Iowa’s men’s basketball players had every reason to shrug their shoulders and walk from last night’s game with a 30-point loss.
Two Iowa starters — point guard Jeff Peterson and post Cyrus Tate — suffered injuries and couldn’t play. Iowa faced No. 20 Purdue, a team that had beaten Iowa by 22 points less than a month ago. Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year, returned from a back injury.
Those reasons didn’t turn into excuses for Iowa (13-13, 3-10). The short-handed fought a valiant but futile battle, hanging with the Boilermakers (19-6, 8-4) until the very end. But Iowa didn’t make enough shots or plays in a 49-45 loss before 14,665, the largest basketball crowd this season.
“They’re just another team coming in, and we’re trying to defend home court,” Iowa guard Jermain Davis said. “In the Big Ten, you don’t try to give up any at home. That’s what we’re trying to do, and we fell a little short.”
Iowa held Purdue to 20 of 43 shots from the field, including just 3 of 16 3-pointers. Purdue was 1 of 9 from beyond the 3-point line in the second half.
“This is the kind of defense that Lickliter prefers us to play, and I think we capitalized on Hawkeye basketball tonight,” Iowa post Jarryd Cole said.
Iowa trailed by seven points on three consecutive possessions early in the second half, but rallied throughout to keep the game close. Iowa held Purdue to just one field goal over a 7:02 period in the second half to cut Purdue’s lead to 33-31. Iowa eventually tied the score at 37-37 on a pair of David Palmer free throws.
After Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore scored to put Purdue up two, Iowa’s Jake Kelly tied the game with a pair of free throws. On Iowa’s next possession, Kelly hit a jumper to give Iowa its final lead at 41-39 with 6:52 left in the game.
But Purdue was too much for Iowa, scoring on back-to-back possessions to retake the lead at 44-41. Iowa scored two more baskets, but Purdue hit 3 of 4 free throws late to seal the win.
“I think that in a grind-it-out possession-type game, you have to get stops,” Purdue Coach said. “We were able to get a lot of stops late in the game, and that’s important to our team, being able to come in here and win a very close game on the road.
“We were very fortunate to make a couple good plays down the stretch and make our free throws.”
Iowa played just seven players with Tate and Peterson out. Tate sprained his ankle on Jan. 8 and has played in just one game since. He was given medical clearance to play, but the pain was too difficult for him to dismiss.
Peterson strained his right hamstring against Wisconsin on Wednesday and was ruled out by Friday. That led to Iowa splitting point guard duties between Kelly and Jermain Davis.
“I think we just knew it was going to be a team effort to share the ball, just try to limit the mistakes and just try to make them tired,” Davis said. “Don’t let them get easy baskets and guard tough. That’s what we tried to do.”
Iowa had its own problems offensively. Iowa shot just 36.2 percent from the floor, including 2 of 19 3-pointers. Iowa missed all nine 3-point attempts in the second half.
Iowa Coach said his team lost a few scoring opportunities and forced a few poor shots at the end of the .
“I thought we passed up a couple looks,” Lickliter said. “Hesitant, probably wanting to win so bad that we probably passed up a few, but they wouldn’t have been great looks.”
Iowa now has a full week before hosting Michigan on Feb. 22. Lickliter said he’s uncertain about the availability of either Peterson or Tate for that game.