At least Michigan State was a good team on Sunday. They outworked us and deserved to win an ultimately sloppy game. Tonight there is no excuse to lose. We all know who is coming. We all know what happened on our last Senior Night. After being away from basketball for a day I feel refreshed. It is time to take out some frustration that has been brewing for a week. We still have a piece of a championship to play for, so let's go get it.
2009-10 Record: 9-19, 3-13 Big Ten
2008-09 Record: 6-25, 1-17 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 109-84
Last Purdue win 78-75 on 2/4/10 at Indiana
Last Indiana win 77-68 on 2/19/08 at Indiana
Let's get right down to it. The Hoosiers have lost 10 straight. If they lose tonight it will be a school record 11th in a row. In addition to this potentially historic streak, Indiana hasn't even been remotely close to a victory since falling short against us about a month ago. They have losses of 17, 17, 28, 14, 23, 32 (an Assembly Hall record), and 16 in that time. They have won just twice away from Bloomington all year. They defeated Pittsburgh in a pretty shocking upset on a neutral floor and they won at Penn State. Because of a recent surge by the Nittany Lions, Indiana is in line for the #11 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament.
On paper, this is a team that has quit on its season. That is why any loss to them tonight would be absolutely embarrassing even if we had Bob Hummel in the lineup instead of Robbie Hummel. A key issue all season, turnovers, has reared its ugly head in this most recent stretch. It has gotten so bad that The Crimson Quarry has already resigned itself to a bloodbath tonight even without Robbie.
So we have nothing to fear, right? Well, I wouldn't say that. This is still a rivalry, and rivalries tend to have crazy things happen from time to time. Remember my brief history of the rivalry from the last IU game preview. The game back in February shouldn't have been close, but this exact same team played us hard to the last. We also still have the stench of Sunday's game still lingering in Mackey Arena. If we have another effort like that I guarantee tonight could be a long night.
Fortunately, we are the position of knowing that we most likely have to play an awful game in order to have it be close tonight. Let's look at the numbers from the last game: Tom Pritchard played a brilliant first half and had a season high 13 points. He abused JaJuan Johnson for 20 minutes and appeared to be a real live Big Ten post player. Since then, he has scored just 20 in seven games. Verdell Jones III had 22 against us, but he has at least continued to be the Hoosiers' most consistent scorer. Christian Watford has also had one of his most successful stretches of the season.
All three of those players will need to have big games tonight in order for Indiana to win. The Hoosiers also must take care of the basketball. A major reason they were able to stay close in Bloomington came from the 10 turnovers we forced. I was proud of our defensive effort on Sunday, so if we can replicate that we will force more than 10 turnovers against Indiana. The Hoosiers also shot 50% from 3-point land in that first game, so our effort there must improve.
Now we move on to the What Did Robbie Do factor (WDRD from now on). It is a factor that needs to be brought up in every rematch from this point forward. Robbie had a monster game, unfortunately, of 21 and 7. JJ and E'Twaun combined for 35, but we at least got some consistent scoring from some other options. John Hart had seven off the bench. Keaton Grant, Kelsey Barlow, and Chris Kramer each had five. On paper, we shouldn't need a Robbie factor tonight, but games are not played on paper.
There are a lot of intangible factors to consider here. What will IU's players think of Barlow's infamous choke gesture? How will the fans treat Purdue Pete's last home game before he is re-designed (I'll have more on this later). There has been a lot of chirping on IU's message boards too. A lot of their fans are taking great joy in Robbie's injury because they think it derailed our season entirely. To me, that is the biggest reason we should attempt to deliver a curb-stomping tonight. We absolutely must wint he Big Ten and make a tournament run if only to piss off Indiana fans. We have to get around our mental block that has been in place since Robbie went down. He's not coming back this year. We have two choices: suck it up and deal or cave. Sunday we caved.
Tonight I expect us to make a statement. Coach Painter made it clear that he was not happy with Sunday's effort and that we still had a lot to play for. We have come too freaking far to stop now just because of one major injury. Indiana is a team we absolutely should beat easily with the personnel we have available tonight. It's also Senior Night, so we have to thank the following guys who will play their final games in Mackey Arena:
Mark Wohlford - While Mark can technically come back for another year next year, it is likely that he is headed to law school. Mark has only played in 39 games in his career, and sparingly in many of those. His best by far was a 10 point effort earlier this season against St. Joseph's. There were shades of Bobby Buckets in that game. Because of that, we may see him a little more down the stretch. He's a tenacious defender, a 50% 3-point shooter, and an all-around good kid who will be missed. Thank you, Mark.
Keaton Grant - Is there any player who has had more of an up and down career than KG? He was an all-Big Ten player and team MVP as a sophomore. This was even over the four "Baby Boilers" of that season. His numbers have dipped each of the past two years, but he has handled the loss of his starting role with class. We absolutely needed him in the three games before Sunday and he delivered, so it is hoped that he still has his best basketball in him now when we truly need him to step up. KG isn't a guy that came to us as a program changer, but he will leave with more wins than anyone who has ever worn Old Gold and Black. He still ahs plenty of time to add to his legacy, but I thank him for what he has given us so far.
Chris Kramer - I love this kid. He tortured my beloved Wildkats in high school, but I still love him. He is the heart of this team. He has played with paint hat would debilitate most mere mortals. I find myself wanting him to play football not because I think he can help out, but because I can't fathom not having Chris Kramer around. He is a leader. He is a warrior. He is the example of everything that Purdue basketball means in terms of hustle and heart. He had led by example by never backing down one inch. It is a common joke made here that Chris Kramer will play unless he is dead, and even then he would only be listed as "questionable". I doubt there is a single player in the Big Ten that means more to his fans than Kramer. Thank you, Chris.
These are the three guys we are playing the most for tonight. I'll be there in person to see them off right. Make it happen, guys.
Keys to the Game for Purdue:
- Move without the basketball
- Shoot when open
- Follow the lead of the Seniors
- Continue playing solid defense
- Force turnovers
- Remember you're the better team
Prediction: Purdue 66, Indiana 50