Jan. 7, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa men’s basketball team will play its third consecutive ranked foe on Sunday at No. 10 Purdue. In the process, it will contend with one of the best one-two punches in the Big Ten Conference, if not the nation.
The inside-outside duo of JuJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore will provide the Hawkeyes with a stiff challenge at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The duo is combining to average nearly 40 points per contest and both players rank among the top-5 in the league in scoring. Johnson is pacing the Boilermakers with 19.6 points per game, while Moore comes in averaging 19.3 points a night.
“There are a lot (one-two punches), but you certainly would have to argue (they) may be (the best) in the country when you look at those two guys in terms of their overall numbers,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery at his weekly press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “They’ve got good shooting numbers, good three-point shooting numbers, excellent rebounding numbers and pretty good assist-turnover numbers.
“They affect the game in so many different ways, and the rest of their players are talented. On any given day it is somebody else stepping up to have a big game.”
Johnson and Moore have helped Purdue post a 14-1 overall record and the Boilermakers enter the game with a 3-0 mark in Big Ten play. Purdue’s lone loss came against Richmond on Nov. 27 in the Chicago Invitational Challenge, which means it enters Sunday’s game with a nine-game winning streak.
The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, enter the contest with a 7-7 overall record and an 0-2 mark in the Big Ten having dropped consecutive games at home to No. 23 Illinois (87-77) and No. 2 Ohio State (73-68). Iowa has also lost the last seven meetings against the Boilermakers.
The Hawkeyes have made progress in the last two Big Ten games, and McCaffery expects that to continue.
“My expectations are pretty simple,” said McCaffery, who coached his Siena team against Purdue in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. “We have to get better individually and then get better collectively. When you have some young players, you’re trying to bring them along and develop confidence, get stronger and stay healthy.”
In the five-point loss to the Buckeyes, Iowa got a lift from the post play of Melsahn Basabe and Jarryd Cole. The duo combined for 36 points and 20 rebounds in the contest, making half of their 26 shot attempts. Basabe had a career night, finishing with 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
“For a while, a bulk of our offense was coming from the perimeter,” said McCaffery. “Now Jarryd and Melsahn have really stepped up; we’ve had (Zach) McCabe at small forward and power forward; (Andrew) Brommer is playing well. So we can absorb somebody not having a particularly good game and still be out there putting some points on the board.”
One thing that should bode well for the Hawkeyes on Sunday is the return of sophomore Eric May, who sat out the Ohio State game with a pulled groin. Iowa welcomes the guard’s 11.2 scoring average back into the lineup.
“One of the reasons we held him out against Ohio State is so we’d have him for Purdue and for the games following, and you hope it works out that way, that he doesn’t have a setback, but he seems to be feeling better.”
Getting a healthy May back in the mix will free up some space for junior Matt Gatens. The guard has been Iowa’s most consistent player, scoring in double digits in the last five contests, which includes a pair of 20-point games. Gatens finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting against the Buckeyes, but is that enough attempts for the team’s leading scorer?
“We want him to shoot more, but he’s obviously a marked man,” said McCaffery. “I think he’d probably turn down a couple that he could have let go, and I’m okay with him shooting those. But he’s a very efficient player, and I respect him for that. He’s going to see tight coverage pretty much every game the rest of his career, so the more he can do off the dribble for his teammates, I think the better it’ll be for us.”
Sunday’s game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network beginning at 11:01 a.m. (CT).