Iowa 71, Purdue 57
The Big Ten scheduling gods were very good to Iowa this year. In addition to facing Michigan State and Wisconsin only once each, the Hawkeyes's first game after an exhausting 45 minute contest against Illinois was at home against one of the Big Ten's weakest teams. This allowed Iowa to rest several tired starters and give big minutes and added experience to their bench players in a game whose outcome was never in doubt.
- Doug Thomas - Thunder Doug was the main beneficiary of the bench's enlarged role. He logged 18 minutes and tallied 14 points and 9 rebounds. Doug worked the crowd into a frenzy with 5 first half dunks, including 4 in the last 3:15 after Carl Landry sat down with his third foul. He also knocked down a short jumper to finish the first half with 12 points. It'll be interesting to see if Doug's continued improvement earns him any extra playing time down the road.
- Pierre Pierce - Pierce was held to single digits for the first time this season, and took just 8 shots. Alford took advantage of the opportunity to rest his leading scorer, as Pierre played 29 minutes today after playing all 45 minutes at Illinois on Thursday. With little pressure on him to score every possession, Pierce was able to display his passing ability. He finished with 8 assists to just 2 turnovers, including passes that led to two easy baskets for Erek "I can't score on your grandma" Hansen. Pierce is a very capable scorer, but I think this team plays a lot better when he isn't forced into taking on the defense by himself.
- Greg Brunner - Solid. That's all I can say until he plays otherwise. Greg notched another double-double with 14 and 11, including 5 offensive rebounds. He's currently leading the conference with 10.4 rpg (Big Ten games only). I held a grudge against Brunner for a while simply because he played for my high school's biggest rival, but his blue collar style is winning me over. Purdue head coach Gene Keady referred to Brunner as a 1950's type of player in the post-game press conference, crediting his "heart" and "technique."
- Thomas wasn't the only bench contributor. Carlton Reed and Mike Henderson each played 18 solid minutes. Reed had a career high 5 assists and knocked down a three, while Henderson hit a driving layup and came up with a couple steals. I'm still not convinced that Henderson provides much value to the team, other than giving breathers to the starting backcourt. I'll have to pay a little closer attention to his defense and see if I change my mind. Alex Thompson and Seth Gorney got 9 and 5 undistinguished minutes, respectively.
- Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner were good but not great. Horner hit a loooooong three but missed a couple other good looks. Haluska racked up 4 fouls again and only played 21 minutes. He's now got 19 fouls in the five Big Ten games. I probably overestimated each player's shooting ability earlier in the year. Adam's 40% and Jeff's 47% from three are still good, but outside of the Illinois game, both players have been inconsistent at best with their shots.
- Erek Hansen - Iowa's starting center again played sparingly (only 17 min), but this time it wasn't due to foul trouble. Thomas was hot and deserved to be on the floor. Hansen's inability to rebound still concerns me. I tried to keep a mental tally of how many of Purdue's offensive rebounds came when Hansen was in the game and when Thomas was in the game. I lost count, but I'm fairly certain that there were a lot more when Hansen was playing. I'll probably write a quick post about my thoughts on Hansen and Thomas tomorrow.
- Iowa came into this game with the conference's worst assist to turnover ratio for Big Ten games, but had an impressive 20 assists to only 8 turnovers today.
- A group of about 50 Purdue students made the 300+ mile trip from West Lafayette, and made as much or more noise than Iowa's student section. Sad? Yes. Unexpected? Not anymore.
- I wonder how Alford felt about football coach Kirk Ferentz's entrance today. Ferentz strolled down the sideline mid-way through the first half. The crowd, which had been indifferent up to that point, broke out into what was nearly a standing ovation. Ferentz was wildly popular during halftime as well. There was a constant line stretching from the press table to the baseline, as eager fans waited to get a picture with or an autograph from the coach.
- Alford presented Gene Keady with a little going-away present before the game - a 3-day stay at The Rio in Las Vegas, including 2 rounds of golf.
So, all in all, this was a good game for Iowa. Past Alford teams commonly "played to their opponent," meaning they were competitive against top teams but struggled when playing weaker teams. I'm getting a different feeling this year - they stayed with #1 Illinois, but beat Purdue easily, even with many of the starters playing reduced roles. There's also the Maui wins, plus the 30 point pounding of Texas Tech. There was the stretch of poor games against St. Louis, Michigan, and Ohio State, but I think Alford correctly diagnosed the team's problems and has the team ready to play good basketball the rest of the way.
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