WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Iowa’s pivotal week away from home got off to a discouraging start.
And this one will sting for the Hawkeyes, especially if the Big Ten Conference race is close at the end of the season.
No. 17 Iowa lost at Purdue, 62-57, in a game the Hawkeyes seemed in perfect position to win, holding an eight-point lead with six minutes to play.
But not much went right from that point.
The Hawkeyes (11-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) struggled offensively the entire night, scoring 25 points below their season average. And the defense that had carried them most of the game had too many lapses down the stretch.
“We just had some silly mistakes at the end,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said.
There were a couple of key missed box-outs, including one where Purdue’s Dominique Oden rebounder her own missed free throw for a putback.
There was the time Iowa left Oden, one of Purdue’s best outside shooters, wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer that began the Boilermakers’ rally.
And when Iowa got down, shooting itself back into the game wasn’t going to happen. The Hawkeyes made just 3 of 17 shots from the 3-point line.
If a team isn’t shooting well, then second-chance opportunities can be a saving grace, but Iowa had just five offensive rebounds.
Despite all of the offensive struggles, the Hawkeyes’ defense nearly bailed them out. Purdue only scored one time during a stretch of 19 possessions over the second and third quarters. But because of those offensive struggles, Iowa could only build a 40-37 lead.
“I really think we had a good defensive game for the most part, especially in that third quarter,” Iowa’s Megan Gustafson said. “I’ve just got to be more careful and I had some uncharacteristic fouls.”
Purdue tied the game at 50 on Ae’Rianna Harris’ three-point play, and Karissa McLaughlin later put them up for good, 55-52, with a 3-pointer with 2:47 remaining.
Gustafson split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession, but fouled out on the next trip down the court, on a foul call initially given to Hannah Stewart.
That’s when Oden made the first free throw and rebounded her missed second free throw for an easy putback, giving Purdue a 58-53 lead.
Iowa got to within a possession, 57-55, with 35 seconds left. The Hawkeyes didn’t foul, instead going for a stop with about a five-second difference on the shot and game clocks. Amanda Ollinger, though, was called for an unsportsmanlike foul away from the ball, which gave Purdue two free throws and the ball, with 11.6 seconds left.
The Hawkeyes are in a five-way tie for fourth place in the conference, with a matchup at No. 20 Minnesota on Sunday, which will enter with a 1-3 league mark.
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One of those teams — both of which expect to contend for a conference title — is going to have a big hole to climb out of if it loses on Sunday.
“Not one game is more important than any other game,” Bluder said. “It’s tough to win on the road but it’s not like I want to put all this pressure on them by saying ‘You’ve got to win this game.’ No, it’s not that time of year at all or that type of situation.”
Gustafson had her 14th double-double of the year with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Stewart added 17 points and six rebounds. McLaughlin and Oden each scored 16 points to pace Purdue.