Hawkeye men’s basketball tries to keep Big Ten winning streak intact against Rutgers

Iowa hasn’t had a bad loss yet, and it wants to keep that going against Rutgers on Saturday.

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Hawkeye men’s basketball tries to keep Big Ten winning streak intact against Rutgers

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon #3 pushes the ball up court during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon #3 pushes the ball up court during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

David Harmantas

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon #3 pushes the ball up court during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon #3 pushes the ball up court during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Iowa is 24 games into its regular season and 13 games into its Big Ten slate, and the Hawkeyes are yet to suffer a bad loss as they prepare to take on Rutgers on Saturday.

That’s especially impressive considering the Big Ten is one of the best conferences, if not the best conference, in the country from top to bottom.

The league has six teams ranked in the top 25 in the latest AP Poll, and eight teams have a winning percentage at or above .640.

Iowa has an 8-5 record in conference play, with three of those defeats coming to ranked opponents, one coming against a Purdue team now at No. 3 in the standings, and one on the road to a Minnesota team that has a 16-9 overall record.

RELATED: Breaking down Iowa basketball’s key moments in close games

The loss to the Gophers in Minneapolis is the worst of the bunch, but it isn’t as bad as it could have been; the Hawkeyes gave up 55 points in the first half, scored 87 in the game, and lost by only 5.

Yet as Iowa gets ready to head to Piscataway, New Jersey, it knows that anything is possible in this conference.

Lily Smith
Iowa forward Tyler Cook drives to the hoop during the Iowa/Illinois men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, January 20, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 95-71.

“I think it’s another testament to our league, first of all, that even the teams with the lesser records, there’s not a day off by any means,” forward Tyler Cook said. “Rutgers, even in my career here, has still been a really good team. They’ve been really close to taking that next step and being a special team.”

Cook is right. The Scarlet Knights have certainly improved as of late, sitting with five Big Ten victories after winning just three games in the conference last season.

Jordan Bohannon called Rutgers’ Geo Baker one of the better guards in the country. He averages 13.0 points per game along with 3.95 assists and 3.0 rebounds.

Like Bohannon is connected with Cook, Baker has forward Eugene Omoruyi, who has been a force in the paint. He’s leading Rutgers with 14.0 points and 7.4 boards a game.

RELATED: Hawkeyes show improvement from last season in close wins

Like Iowa, the Scarlet Knights started out Big Ten play with losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin, but they have turned it up since then, recording a win over then-No. 16 Ohio State on Jan. 9.

“They always had some good players, but now they just have more of them,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They have depth. They have the ability to overcome one guy having an off-night. Somebody else can step up. They have that kind of team.”

The Hawkeyes have been on a roller coaster of a season thus far, going undefeated in nonconference play before losing their first three Big Ten games.

Then after a five-game winning streak in early January, Iowa lost back-to-back games against Michigan State and Minnesota. Now, the Hawkeyes are winners of three straight and trying to keep the upward trend going.

“It would have been easy when we were down 0-3 in the conference to just fold it and say this season’s a loss,” Bohannon said. “But we realized it was the first time in a long time the team went undefeated in nonconference. We did a lot of things. We won a [tournament] title … We know a lot of things we accomplished, and we still have a lot to accomplish later in the season.”

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