Jan. 2, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Make that two Big Ten Conference victories and two wins over top 15 teams in a span of five days for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team.
The Hawkeyes shot 64.3 percent from the field in a 50 point second half to erase an 18 point deficit to hand No. 14 Purdue a 70-63 loss Saturday night inside Mackey Arena. Iowa is just the second Big Ten team in the last 20 seasons to start league play with both victories coming against ranked foes.
“This is a very difficult place to play,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery, who led Iowa to its first win in West Lafayette since 2006. “We played well here the last two years, but didn’t do it. I am so happy for our guys to play well and get over the hump and win here. To beat them on the road is something that will help our confidence.”
The Hawkeyes trailed by as many as 19 points in the game, making it the second-largest comeback in a league game in school history. Iowa improves to 11-3 overall, 2-0 in Big Ten play; Purdue is 13-2, 1-1.
Senior Jarrod Uthoff was a one-man wrecking crew, finishing with a game-high 25 points — his sixth 20 point game of the season. The forward made 7-of-16 field goals and 10-of-14 free throws and had five blocks and four rebounds in 38 minutes.
“Anytime Jarrod plays aggressive like that, we’re a better team,” said McCaffery.
Junior Peter Jok was the only other Hawkeye in double figures, netting 11 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds. Senior Mike Gesell chipped in seven points, seven assists, and seven rebounds.
After shooting just 23.3 percent in the opening half, Iowa connected on 18-of-28 field goals over the final 20 minutes, including a 6-of-9 performance from 3-point range. Iowa shot 43.1 percent (25-of-58) for the game, and made seven 3-pointers.
The Hawkeyes trailed by as many as 19 points (37-18) in the first half and were down 37-20 at the break. Purdue caught fire midway through the half and it resulted in a 16-0 run that turned a 13-11 Iowa lead into a 27-13 deficit. The Boilermakers made four of their seven first-half 3-pointers during the stretch.
Iowa worked its way back into the game with its defense in the second half, forcing 10 Purdue turnovers and limiting the Boilermakers to eight field goals and a 30.8 field goal percentage. The Hawkeyes scored 22 points off Purdue’s 14 turnovers for the game, holding a 22-7 advantage.
“We got easy baskets in the second half,” said McCaffery. “That’s why we shot 60 percent. We did a much better job closing out (defensively). They made seven 3s in the first half and only one in the second.”
The Boilermakers tied the game at 48 with 6:38 to play before redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer drained a 3-pointer eight seconds later to give Iowa the lead for good. The Hawkeyes finished, pushing their lead to seven (59-52) on a Woodbury layup with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Purdue, who shot 39 percent for the game, had two reserves reach double figures. Kendall Stephens led the team with 12 points in just 13 minutes, while A.J. Hammons scored 11 and grabbed seven rebounds.
Iowa returns to action Tuesday night, hosting Nebraska at 8 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court.
“We’re in a good place,” said McCaffery. “We can fight and compete, but we still have 16 more (Big Ten games) and we have a lot of tough games left. You can’t ever be satisfied.”