Final Four Thoughts: Iowa at Purdue
Purdue is a totally different team at Mackey Arena: Most college basketball teams play much better at home than on the road, but it would be hard to find a team that is more night and day at home and away than Purdue. The same Purdue team that only scored 37 points at Illinois a month earlier, and struggled to score 61 points for an entire game at Northwestern Saturday night, scored 61 points in the first half against #17 Iowa Wednesday night. The Boilermakers went on to route the Hawkeyes 104-68. This was the fourth quality opponent that Purdue has dominated at home this season, after beating Virginia and Michigan St. by 29 points and Wisconsin by 19 points.
Once struggling players, Evan Boudreaux and Jahaad Proctor have keyed Purdue’s recent success: Purdue has won three of its last four games in part due to the resurgent play of Boudreaux and Proctor. That solid play from these two players continued against Iowa. After hitting a huge three pointer in the final minute to key Purdue’s comeback at Northwestern Saturday night, Proctor didn’t miss a shot against the Hawkeyes, including hitting three 3 pointers, en route to scoring 15 points. Boudreaux led the team in scoring with 18 points, including making four 3 pointers, and also grabbed 8 rebounds. If these two seniors continue to play well, it will bode well for Purdue the rest of the season.
Luka Garza is one of the most improved players in the country: Garza only averaged 13 points and 4 rebounds a game last year in about 23 minutes per game. This season, he is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds a game in about 30 minutes per game. He is now being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Wooden Award given to college basketball’s best player. He was the lone bright spot for the Hawkeyes against the Boilermakers, finishing with 26 points on the night. He nearly had half of the Hawkeyes points at halftime, scoring 17 of their 36 points.
Purdue’s slim chances to make the NCAA tournament got a big boost with the win over Iowa: Purdue has some big wins over opponents at Mackey Arena, but its overall record has hovered around .500 for much of the season. This victory over the Hawkeyes was not only another quad 1 win for Purdue, but more importantly moved the Boilermakers overall record to three games over .500. If Purdue wants to have a chance to make the tournament, it will have to get its overall record to at least four games over .500. The victory also jumped Purdue to 29 in the NET rankings.