Purdue aims for regular-season sweep of Iowa

Earlier this week, Purdue's Caleb Swanigan received his fourth Big Ten Player of the Week award.
Getty Images

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two weeks ago, 17th-ranked Purdue began Big Ten play by throttling Iowa 89-67 at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers now look to complete a regular-season sweep when it visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Thursday night’s rematch.

Purdue (14-3, 3-1) enters having won two straight, most recently a 66-55 home victory over No. 18 Wisconsin on Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes (10-7, 2-2) are playing their second straight home game after rallying late to defeat Rutgers 68-62 on Jan. 8.

Thursday’s matchup will showcase two of the league’s top three scorers with Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan and Iowa guard Peter Jok.

Earlier this week, Swanigan received his fourth Big Ten Player of the Week award after compiling 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, 13 rebounds and two blocks in the win over Wisconsin. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound sophomore leads the conference in rebounding, averaging 12.9 per game.

“I’m playing a lot with my team and not really forcing too many things,” Swanigan said after the win over Wisconsin when asked about his improvement from last season to now. “Taking care of the ball is my biggest thing.”

Jok enters Thursday’s game leading the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 22.6 points per game, nearly four points more than the next closest player.

In the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 28, Swanigan was one of five Boilermakers to reach double figures, scoring with 11 points, and he also pulled down 10 rebounds. Jok led Iowa with 13 points but was only 4 of 15 from the floor and 1 of 7 from behind the 3-point line.

While Swanigan provides a massive challenge for the Hawkeyes, it was Purdue’s 3-point shooting that killed Iowa in the first meeting, as the Boilermakers drained 10 3-pointers in the first half alone.

“You’ve got to stop both components of their offense, if you can. Playing good low post defense, but then also closing out and getting to the 3-point shooters,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Their spacing is good, and their ability to move the ball and pass the ball and willingness to do that is really impressive.”

With Thursday’s game being in Iowa City, this is only the third true road game that Purdue has played all season and the second in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers escaped with a 76-75 victory over Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 5.

Before departing for Iowa on Wednesday, Purdue coach Matt Painter said the most important thing his team needs to do against Iowa is take care of the ball.

“For us, we have to be able to take good shots and be able to set up our defense because they’re so good in transition,” Painter said. “You can’t let them have a lot of opportunities in transition to score the ball.”

On Iowa’s end, there is one noteworthy difference from the first meeting and now. The 22-point loss to Purdue was freshman forward Tyler Cook’s first game back for Iowa after surgery for a broken right index finger that kept him out an entire month.

As a result, Cook wasn’t back in the starting lineup. This time around, he is expected to make his fourth consecutive start since returning from the injury.

“It’s going to be a full-on effort,” Cook said. “They’re talented all over the place. We’ve got to be locked in defensively.”