We’ve been stewing for 721 days.
February 19, 2015 was the last time Purdue beat Indiana in one of the Big three men’s sports of football, basketball, or baseball. In baseball, Indiana has consistently been a top 20 team these past few years and Purdue has been awful. Also, they didn’t even play in 2015 and 2013, meaning our last win in the series came in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament title game. In football, well, Darrell Hazell became one of the greatest coaches in Indiana history, as he lead the Hoosiers to their crowning achievement of winning four straights Buckets. Sure, it only took them 69 years to win four in a row (and Purdue accomplished that feat 7 times in those 69 years) but remember: four straight wins over an outright deplorable team is a massive triumph even if you still never finish with a winning record! When Indiana wins four straight Buckets it is a great triumph. when Purdue wins four striaght Buckets its business as usual.
Also, the kick was not good.
Anyway, it has been 721 days since we last beat Indiana in football, basketball, or baseball. Baseball has lost six in a row, football has lost four in a row, but thanks to the genius of Jim Delaney it was more important for us to play Maryland twice last season than Indiana. After sweeping the Hoosiers in 2015 we met only once last season, when Purdue’s furious comeback was thwarted by a goaltending call on A.J. Hammons as he blocked Yogi Farrell’s drive in the final seconds.
It was a close call, too. Had it been a block, Purdue had a potential breakout the other way down 75-73 after trailing most of the second half by double figures. Instead, it was a goaltend (probably the correct call), and Indiana had a 77-73 victory. They went on to win the Big Ten and reach the Sweet 16. Purdue won its next five games before losing the Big Ten Tournament championship game and choking against Little Rock.
Now we are back in Bloomington a little less than a year later. tha tloss formally ended Purdue’s Big Ten title hopes last season and a loss tomorrow night would probably dot he same. After starting the season strong, injuries have decimated the Hoosiers and they find themselves clinging to the NCAA bubble. They have lost three of four with the only win being a triple-overtime marathon against Penn State. Since they finish the regular season with four road games in five (and they are 1-5 in true road games) this is almost a must-win for Indiana. A loss puts them on the brink of missing the NCAA Tournament, something I thought was impossible after the start of the season.
Let’s put them out of their misery.
From: Bloomington, IN
Date : Thursday, February 9, 2017
Tip Time: 7pm
Location: Bloomington, IN
Arena: Assembly Hall (17,222)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2015-16 Record: 27-8, 15-3 Big Ten (Big Ten Champion, lost to North Carolina in NCAA Sweet 16 101-86)
2016-17 Record: 15-9, 5-6
Opponent Blog: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 115-89
Last Indiana Win: 77-73 at Indiana on 2/20/2016
Last Purdue Win: 67-63 at Indiana on 2/19/2015
NCAA Tournament History: 5-time NCAA Champion (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987). 43 appearances, last in 2016
When fully healthy, this Indiana team is really, really good. You don’t beat Kansas and dominate North Carolina without being very good. In the non-conference played four teams currently in the top 7 of the RPI and beat two of them. Outside of that, their best opponent was against No. 149 IPFW. Their best actual win other than UNC and Kansas was over Liberty. It was a very top heavy schedule when you add in the Bankers Life games against Butler and Louisville. Still, those are four excellent opponents to play outside of the Big Ten.
The real story has been injuries, however. OG Anunoby was projected this offseason to be some sort of cross between Kawhi Leonard and Jesus, but a turned ankle caused him to miss three cupcake games before a knee injury at Penn state ended his season. He was an elite defender and projected first round pick (that Fort Wayne held scoreless, but Ed Note: He had the flu), so his loss is huge.
Leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. is the other big injury story. He has averaged 17.6 points per game and has the offensive ability to drop 35 on anyone and win a game by himself. His own leg injury has cost him the last three games and he is questionable for tomorrow night. He did warm up against Wisconsin on Sunday, but did not play. Last season he missed virtually all of the Big Ten season with a torn ACL and Indiana still won the league.
We should operate under the assumption that Blackmon will play until proven otherwise, and that makes Indiana very dangerous. If he is out, along with Anunoby, there is simply no valid excuse for Purdue to lose and we deserve to be taunted relentlessly by Indiana fans if we can’t beat them without their two best players. Blackmon is one of the best pure scorers in the Big Ten with unlimited range. He shoots 43.4% from three and 49% from the floor. He dropped 33 on Michigan State, 26 on Kansas, and 26 on Butler.
If Blackmon can’t go the Hoosiers will rely heavily on Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson. Johnson has been solid at 14.3 points per game and he shoots better than 41% from three. Bryant responded with Blackmon out and had a career high 31 points against Penn State. He averages 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. More importantly, he can pull one of Purdue’s bigs away from the basket, as he shoots 42.5% from three.
Josh Newkirk has been playing extremely well the last two games for Indiana, and if Blackmon is back that can be very bad news for us. We’re all aware of our issues with guards. Newkirk had 27 points against Penn State (including the game-saving buzzer-beater in the second overtime) and 22 at Wisconsin. He only averages 8.5 points per game, but he has really elevated his game in the last two.
Another key player, Juwan Morgan, has been limited by injury as well. He missed the first Penn state game as well as the Michigan State game, and the 6’8” forward is playing through recovery per Crimson Quarry. I haven’t even mentioned Collin Hartman, who was raised from the dead after Jon Octeus killed him only to tear his ACL in early season practice. He was expected to play a large role for the Hoosiers.
Indiana has a few players that can bang with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Bryant at 6’10” is a potential first round draft pick and 6’10” freshman De’Ron Davis has played well a t6 points per game. This is still an Indiana team that wants to get out, run, and shoot the three. While Purdue leads the league offensively at 82.2 points per game Indiana is just behind at 82.0. Indiana is the best shooting team in the league at 49.0% from the floor, while Purdue is second at 48.6%. Purdue is at 42.3% from three while Indiana is at 38.8%.
Indiana is also a really good rebounding team. They have more athleticism than Purdue and will attack the glass relentlessly. Purdue is surprisingly not as good as you would expect at rebounding. Swanigan erases a lot of that, but Haas is not as good of a rebounder as he should be and Vince Edwards can be hit or miss. Both teams are also among the worst in turnover margin in the Big Ten, with Indiana being last by a wide margin.
What this game comes down to is how well will Purdue respond. Will the offense exhibit its excellent passing and fantastic three-point shooting? Will Vince show up instead of Vincent? (To those that don’t know, my story is that “Vincent” is Edwards’ evil twin who sucks at basketball that abducts “Vince” and locks him in the basement of Stewart Center from time to time). Will Blackmon play? Will Indiana continue to turn the ball over way too much and not play a lot of defense?
The thing is, even if Blackmon doesn’t play and Bryant gets in early foul trouble you can never take anything for granted in Bloomington. In 2010 Purdue was one of the best teams in the country before Hummel got hurt and Indiana was in year two of their massive rebuild under Tom Crean. They would finish last in the Big Ten, but they still had a missed three-pointer at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. As much as I would love to deliver an unmerciful 37-point beatdown like they did to us at Mackey five years ago, that’s not going to happen. Purdue is playing better basketball right now, but this is Indiana. It is the best rivalry in college basketball. It’s going to be a tight, hotly contested ballgame, and it is never easy for us to win in Bloomington.
And if Bo Boroski is there all bets really are off since he cost us at least one game this year already.