Interior defense key for Iowa men’s basketball’s matchup against No. 2 Purdue

The Hawkeyes will be at a size disadvantage when they take on the Boilermakers in West Lafayette on Friday.

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Jerod Ringwald

Iowa forwards Keegan Murray and Filip Rebraca fight for a rebound during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Slippery Rock at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. The Hawkeyes out rebounded Slippery Rock 56-34. The Hawkeyes beat The Pride of the Rock 99-47.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter


After a 7-0 start to the season, Iowa men’s basketball will open Big Ten play on Friday.

And the Hawkeyes have a challenge in front of them as they take on No. 2 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“We gotta play our best game of the year to be able to go in there and pull off an upset,” senior guard Jordan Bohannon said.

The Hawkeyes have to start on the defensive side of the ball — specifically in the post.

Purdue’s two main post players — 6-foot-10, 255-pound Trevion Williams and 7-foot-4, 295-pound Zach Edey — hover above Iowa’s tallest starters. Hawkeye senior Filip Rebraca and sophomore Patrick McCaffery both stand at 6-foot-9. Rebraca, the Hawkeyes’ heaviest starter, weighs in at 230 pounds.

Rebraca, who transferred to Iowa from Summit League member North Dakota over the offseason, knew he would face this type of challenge in the Big Ten.

“I signed up for this. I got to deal with the consequences, I guess,” Rebraca said Wednesday. “But, you know, I go out there every night and I try my best to battle. I don’t care how tall the person is or how much they weigh. I’m always going to give it my all. Hopefully that makes up for a lot of the weight and height.”

But Rebraca added that it’s going to take all five Hawkeyes on the floor to help limit Purdue’s big men.

“I don’t think it’s just up to me,” Rebraca said. “I need to try my best but it’s a team effort to stop those guys. You know, those are really talented players. [Williams is] one of the best players in the Big Ten. So, I think it’s gonna be a team effort.”

Williams earned honorable mention All-American honors and was named to the All-Big Ten first team after averaging 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 2020-21. The media also projected Williams to be an All-Big Ten first-teamer in 2021-22.

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So far this season, Williams has put up 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Edey is the Boilermakers’ leading scorer with 16.9 points per game.

“We got to do a phenomenal job defensively,” Bohannon said. “We have to be locked in how we’re helping on their big guys. Staying home on the shooters. Who are we closing out and ready for the drive on? It’s gonna be a big personnel game and for us to kind of be undersized and matched up against them down low. We got to have all five guys rebounding, all five guys helping our big guys down low to do what we can to come out of there with a win.”

Offensively, Hawkeye players and head coach Fran McCaffery are looking to use their quickness as an advantage against the taller and heavier Boilermakers.

“We just have to be aggressive,” sophomore forward Keegan Murray said. “We just have to work through our game plan, our scout and do that to a tee. Obviously, they’re really tall up front and there’s ways that we can exploit that on offense and also use our quickness on defense. Just be solid all around.”

Fran McCaffery said his players will try to make the Purdue big men move around on the defensive end and make them guard away from the paint.

“[With a smaller lineup] You can stretch the floor a little bit more, go off the dribble a little bit more,” Fran McCaffery said. “Maybe make some threes, drive the ball, maybe draw some fouls, that kind of thing.”

The Hawkeyes will take on the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena at 8 p.m. The game will be aired on Big Ten Network.

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