Hawkeyes seeking to upset No. 6 Purdue


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They haven’t come too often this season, but the 78-65 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday gives the Iowa men’s basketball team something to build on.

From the first possession, the Hawkeyes were in control against the Wildcats. Iowa never relinquished the lead, and given that Northwestern was playing for a possible first berth in the NCAA Tournament, this might have been the biggest victory of the season.

“The atmosphere was up,” junior co-captain Jarryd Cole said. “Everybody was smiling. Coach [Todd Lickliter] was happy. Everybody was happy. It was a change from the last games we’ve been playing, and hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Making it two in a row, however, will be far from easy for the Hawkeyes, who under head coach Todd Lickliter have yet to win two-consecutive conference games.

Iowa (9-16, 3-8) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. matchup with No. 6 Purdue.

The Boilermakers (20-3, 8-3) are a half-game out of first place in the Big Ten standings after a monumental 76-64 victory at No. 10 Michigan State on Tuesday.

The Hawkeyes’ win over Northwestern snapped a four-game losing streak. But instead of focusing on winning streaks and losing skids, Lickliter wants the players to focus on what’s in front of them.

“I think you can respect the focus of these guys because I don’t know that they see streaks, either,” he said. “They see the opportunity at hand, and a job to be done, and that’s the way you have success.”

Saturday’s game marks the second meeting between Purdue and Iowa this season. The Boilermakers won the previous showdown, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 67-56, on Dec. 29, 2009.

In fact, they have won six straight against the Hawkeyes, dating back to a 74-55 win over Iowa in the 2007 Big Ten Tournament.

A win on Saturday for Purdue would tie the longest winning streak against Iowa in school history, seven-consecutive victories from 1974-77.

During the teams’ previous meeting, which was the Big Ten opener for both schools, the Hawkeyes hung around early and entered halftime with a 27-26 lead on the then-No. 4 team.

However, Purdue shot more than 65 percent in the second half to pull away with the double-digit win.

Going to Mackey Arena won’t be easy for Iowa — the Boilermakers have only lost once there all season, and they are riding a six-game winning streak.

But after Wednesday’s performance against Northwestern, the Hawkeyes go into the hostile environment feeling as good as they possibly could.

“To be able to see the score at the end of the game and know we’ve done the right things and also come out with the ‘W’ is huge for this young team,” Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens said. “The more we do that and the more we take care of the ball, especially when we can knock down shots, it definitely makes a difference.”

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