Purdue shows some grit -- and against Iowa in B1G final, it'll need it
INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue primarily wins games with beautiful offensive basketball.
It’s when the opponent has the ability to muck it up, or stretch out its own offensive possessions, that things can go south for the Boilermakers.
Purdue has lost to Rutgers, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State this season — all teams that can specialize in that type of thing. Michigan is the only exception to that characterization, but the Wolverines scored 1.32 points per possession in that 82-58 win on Feb. 10 and weren’t going to be stopped by any defense.
But in Saturday’s 75-70 Big Ten Tournament semifinal win over Michigan State, the Boilers didn’t win simply due to their ability to turn a game into a track meet.
The Boilermakers got gritty on both sides of the floor.
Defensively, Purdue was able to lock down on defense against Michigan State’s potent 3-point shooting. And on offense, the Boilers badly beat the Spartans on the glass for second-chance points. A whopping 22 of Purdue’s 75 points were of the second-chance variety.
“I think we’re second in the country in field-goal percentage, but yet we’re still a good offensive rebounding team,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “Like tonight we had lulls, but we had 15 offensive rebounds [and] only had nine turnovers.
“So you live with it and you push through it, and you’re still able to score 75.”
The Spartans have rarely been beaten so badly on the glass this season. Michigan State allowed Purdue to rebound 39.5% of its misses. According to KenPom, Michigan State only fared worse when it allowed Rutgers to rebound 43.5% of its misses on Feb. 5.
Before making some garbage-time threes, Michigan State was also on its way to one of its worst 3-point shooting efforts of the year. The Spartans were 18% from outside — their second-worst performance this year — before hitting 3 in a row to salvage the numbers late.
For Purdue, a repeat of that defensive showing is a must in the Big Ten title game. Because Iowa’s waiting.
Hot Hawks shooting lights out
In 3 tournament games, Iowa has made 40 3-pointers.
It started with a Big Ten Tournament record 19 against Northwestern. And it was capped by Jordan Bohannon’s 36-foot hurl to beat Indiana.
Iowa’s range is everywhere. And for a Purdue defense that ranked 9th in the B1G against 3-point shooting, that knowledge is a major concern.
The fact the Boilers have already beaten the Hawkeyes twice doesn’t shed much light into how the championship game will play out, either.
Keegan Murray wasn’t in uniform for the Dec. 3 game at Mackey Arena, in which Purdue held Iowa to its season-low in 3-point shooting. When the teams met at Carver Hawkeye in late January, foul trouble limited him to 29 minutes.
Painter expects to deal with a much different animal on Sunday afternoon.
“Keep [Iowa playing without Murray] in perspective,” Painter said of the rematch. “They will go smaller and really put you in binds and that’s going to happen in this game. I don’t know how much it will happen, but it’s definitely going to happen.
“They’re good. Fran [McCaffery]’s done an excellent job. It really puts you in binds with their motion offense and the way they spread you out.”
Indiana, which played the best defense of any team in the Big Ten Tournament, still allowed 80 points to these Hawks. Iowa has hit 80 in 7 of its past 8 games, and probably would have done so against Illinois as well if it shot better than 45% at the free-throw line.
This will be a far sterner test than Purdue faced in either of its previous meetings with Iowa.
But thanks to the nature of their semifinal win over Michigan State, the Boilers won’t have to dig very far into their memory banks to figure out how to beat the Hawks once again.