IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa coach Steve Alford was beginning to
wonder if his team would ever get his message about the difference
better free throw shooting could make.
The Hawkeyes figured it out Wednesday night, turning in their
best free throw shooting performance of the season in a 71-61
victory over Purdue (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
Iowa (8-3) came in to the game shooting 63 percent from the
line, and Alford pinned much of the blame for losing three of the
last four games on that poor effort.
Against Purdue (10-4), the Hawkeyes went 29-of-37 from the line
(78 percent), topping the previous high of 76 percent on Dec. 2,
against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
"The difference is foul shooting," Alford said. "When you can
make free throws, your offense looks a lot better, your kids feel
better about themselves, and the game doesn't look quite as ugly."
Iowa's free throw shooting was helped by Purdue's season high 29
personal fouls. In return, the Boilermakers rarely visited the free
throw line, going 7-of-10.
Purdue coach Gene Keady didn't blame the officiating for the
imbalance. He criticized his players instead, and noted that both
teams were warned before the game that referees would aggressively
"They didn't listen to the coaching, they didn't listen to what
the referees said," Keady said of his team, which is on the tail
end of a four-game road trip. "I'll be glad to get back to school
so we can get some smartness transplanted. We have to teach them
how to play the game better."
Kenneth Lowe led the Boilermakers with 19 points in a game his
teammates struggled throughout to find their shooting touch. Purdue
shot 37.5 percent from the field and was just 6-of-26 from behind
the 3-point arc.
Lowe hit a 3-pointer to give the Boilermakers a 32-30 lead,
capping a 7-2 run to open the second half and erase Iowa's
three-point halftime lead.
But the Hawkeyes reclaimed the lead for good a minute later when
Pierce made the second of two free throws to put Iowa up 33-32.
Four minutes later, Sean Sonderleiter fueled a 10-4 Iowa run by
scoring on three straight possessions. He capped the run with an
assist to Brody Boyd, whose easy layup put Iowa up 49-41 with 10:19
The Boilermakers' David Teague hit a 3-pointer from the baseline
with 8:04 to cut Iowa's lead to 54-50, but Purdue would get no
closer the rest of the way.
"They just played harder than us," Keady said. "They battled
and got the loose balls and when you get the loose balls and you
get more possessions than the other team, you're going to win."
Reiner scored on a strong drive and hit the ensuing free throw
to put Iowa up 57-50. The Hawkeyes went 10-of-16 from the free
throw line over the final 7 minutes to hold on for a victory that
avenged last season's home loss to the Boilermakers.
Horner said the win serves as a big lift for a team Alford said
was pressing too hard the last four games.
"It was huge," said Horner, who had four assists and was
8-of-9 from the free throw line. "I can't stress how important it
was to get a win. Any time you beat a ranked team it's awesome."