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IOWA CITY — Iowa has just one freshman in its 10-player men’s basketball rotation, but only four Hawkeyes had played before a road crowd of much size before their 75-74 win at Virginia on Monday.
One of the four, power forward Filip Rebraca, didn’t typically play before monster crowds in his three seasons at North Dakota. One exception was his second college game, when the Fighting Hawks lost at Kentucky in 2018, 96-58.
The Rupp Arena student section wasn’t heavily populated and the announced crowd of 18,555 wasn’t 18,555 for the expected mismatch.
“They were just quiet for the most part,” Rebraca said, “beating us by 30 or whatnot. But it was a funny situation where I had two free throws and the announcer says if he misses both free throws everyone gets Qdoba chips and queso in the house. Arena erupted.
“They were quiet the whole game, and that’s the only moment they went crazy. So I missed those free throws.”
Rebraca had 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot in 22 minutes, and made a pair of 3-pointers. So the overall Rupp experience didn’t intimidate him. He’ll need to come up big, so to speak, Friday night when Iowa gets a daunting road experience.
The Hawkeyes will match 7-0 records with No. 2 Purdue at the Boilermakers’ Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers have a 1-2 post punch like no one else in college basketball.
Purdue Coach Matt Painter gives equal playing time to 6-foot-10, 255-pound senior Trevion Williams (12.3 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) and 7-foot-4 sophomore Zach Edey (16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds).
Welcome to the Big Ten, Filip. If that weren’t enough, your next game is at home Monday against Illinois with 7-foot, 285-pound Kofi Cockburn (26.8 points, 9.5 rebounds per game).
“That’s what I signed up for,” Rebraca said with a laugh Wednesday. “I didn’t expect Kofi to be back, but he is. Yeah, I signed up for this, so I’ve got to deal with the consequences.”
Rebraca had a nice game at Virginia, the first experience in a hostile college atmosphere for six of the 10 Hawkeyes who played there. Rebraca made all four of his shots in the low post, and didn’t get outplayed by Virginia’s 6-11 Kadin Shedrick, one of the nation’s top shot-blockers.
“I go out there every night and try to do my best to battle,” Rebraca said. “I don’t care how tall a person is or how much they weigh. I’m always going to give it my all. Hopefully, that makes up for a lot of weight and height, I guess.”
Rebraca played a season-high 28 minutes at Virginia. He can’t be expected to fend off Williams or Edey by himself.
“You're going to need help no matter who plays them,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, “so you rotate some guys and you give them some help.
“You don't necessarily want to make dramatic changes, but you have a lineup that's a little bit smaller. You're giving up size and you have to deal with that on the defensive end. Well, maybe you can stretch the floor a little bit more, go off the dribble a little bit more, and ultimately maybe make some 3s, drive the ball, maybe draw some fouls, that kind of thing.”
Since No. 1 Duke lost at Ohio State on Tuesday, Purdue is a win over the Hawkeyes from being ranked No. 1 in the nation next Monday.
“I thought they were No. 1 already, personally,” McCaffery said.
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