WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Iowa basketball team’s second true road game of the season didn’t go any better than the first one.
In a way, it might have been worse.
This one came against an unranked team and buried the Hawkeyes a little deeper in the Big Ten standings.
The improved defense the Hawkeyes have displayed for much of the season vanished for most of the first half, and a late surge wasn’t nearly enough to keep them from going down to an 86-70 loss to Purdue as conference play resumed Thursday night at Mackey Arena.
Purdue, led by Big Ten scoring leader Carsen Edwards, went on a series of extended runs in the first half to open a 17-point halftime cushion, then pretty much coasted through the second half.
The Boilermakers twice led by as much as 26. In Iowa’s only other road test, it trailed by 33 in the second half at Michigan State before going down to a 90-68 defeat.
"I think we did some great things tonight," said Iowa forward Tyler Cook, who scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. "It’s important for us to not get down on ourselves."
"First of all we didn’t give up in the second half," Cook said. "The past two years we would have given up and the score would have gotten to 30, 35."
He also pointed to improved defense and a closing run that made the score look more respectable.
"Too little too late," he admitted. "There’s a lot of things that we did in the second half that I wish we’d done in the first half when they were going on their run."
Purdue (9-5, 2-1 Big Ten) did pretty much anything it wanted offensively in the first half, opening a 52-35 lead. It shot 63.3 percent from the field in those first 20 minutes and had only three turnovers
The Boilermakers came in leading the Big Ten in 3-point field goals, but they also did extensive damage inside, scoring 42 points in the paint.
"They were just making a lot of good reads, and we didn’t react," Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said a lot of it came down to mental mistakes at the defensive end.
"There was a lot of slips," he said. "We were chasing (Ryan) Cline, chasing Edwards. … There was a stretch there where it seemed like Nicholas (Baer) was trying to guard everyone on the floor."
"We kind of gave up too many layups," Cook added. "They’re not necessarily a team that pounds it inside, but they got a lot of looks at the rim."
Iowa (11-3, 0-3 Big Ten) also executed pretty well offensively in the opening minutes. The Hawkeyes made six of their first eight shots from the field to grab an early 15-14 lead.
"We told each other at the start that we can’t let this be a scoring contest," said Purdue center Matt Haarms, who scored 14 points off the bench. "One team needs to make an adjustment and start stopping them, and we need to be that team."
That’s exactly what happened. Iowa went nearly six minutes without a field goal, and Purdue capitalized with a 23-7 scoring run that made it 37-22 with 3:46 remaining in the half.
The Hawkeyes chopped the margin to 10 with a rare 5-point play with 1:55 remaining in the half. Jordan Bohannon drained a 3-pointer, and Ryan Kriener was fouled on the play. His two free throws made it 42-32.
But freshman Eric Hunter and the 7-foot-3 Haarms spearheaded a 10-3 scoring run to finish the half, making it 52-35.
"I’m concerned with how we played in that stretch …," McCaffery said of the last 10 minutes of the first half. "You can’t go on the road to Purdue and get down by 17. That’s going to make it really hard."
The Hawkeyes drew four fouls in the first 77 seconds of the second half and appeared to be mounting a comeback, but Edwards then led an 11-0 scoring run that pushed the lead to 63-40.
The Purdue star finished with 21 points, but that’s five below his season average. He didn’t score at all in the final 16 minutes.
Isaiah Moss did most of the defensive work against Edwards and figured he did OK, although he admitted the overall team defense was sub-par.
"That’s not the norm for us this year," he said. "We’re going to back and look at the film and see what we did wrong."
Bohannon, like Cook, said the Hawkeyes just need to remain calm and stay the course.
"It’s a long season so being 0-3 isn’t going to break our season," he said.