Let’s just say it. The Hoosiers have not beaten their bitter rivals in nearly six years.
Indiana has a nine-game losing streak against Purdue, with their last win coming in February of 2016 in Bloomington. That was two head coaches ago when a guy named Yogi was running the point for the Hoosiers. Overall IU has lost 12 of 13 to the Boilermakers dating back to 2014.
Over that span, Purdue has continued to evolve into a strong program under Matt Painter. And this year’s squad might be his best. According to Kenpom.com, the Boilermakers lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency with a 123.9 rating. They are also tied for fourth in scoring offense with a scoring average of 86.2 points per game.
The Boilermakers come into Bloomington (7 p.m. Eastern / FS1) as the No. 4 ranked team in the nation. Head coach Mike Woodson didn’t have a hand in the losses over the last eight years, but Purdue is his problem now.
“They’ve kind of had their way here of late, but hopefully we can make that change tomorrow night,” Woodson said on Wednesday morning. “We’ve got to just commit ourselves for 40 minutes. It’s not going to be something that’s going to be hand-delivered to us. You’ve got to go get it.”
Normally, Indiana has been the team with the size and athleticism advantage during Woodson’s first year, but it won’t be the case on Thursday. Trevion Williams stands at 6-foot-10-inches and weighs 255 pounds, yet he isn’t the biggest player on his team. Zach Edey, at 7-foot-4 and 295 pounds holds that title.
Edey has looked like a man amongst boys this season. As one of the tallest players in college basketball, he has been able to use his size to dominate the paint. He is averaging 15.6 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Williams is averaging 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game off the bench.
In their last matchup with IU, Edey had 20 points and 9 boards. In the meeting before that, it was Williams with the big game. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“They both are great players down low on the block,” Woodson said. “That’s a big part of their initial threat in terms of their offense, and playing inside out, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”
“Their front court is damn good, and they’ve got guys that can make the long ball, as well. I mean, they pose a double threat. They’ve got inside and out, so we’ve got to defend it all.”
One of the outside threats is Sasha Stefanovic. The senior is averaging 11.8 points per game and averages 2.6 threes per game on 41.7 percent shooting. He has a beautiful, quick release that is tough to contest. He could also get hot in a hurry as he hit five threes in their double OT win against Illinois on Monday.
As noted by Rob Phinisee, they utilize a ton of off-ball screens to get open looks for Stefanovic.
“I have a couple friends on the team, so I know a lot of what they run. And, it’s pretty similar to what they’ve been running in the past too,” the Lafayette, Ind. native said of his familiarity with Purdue.
“It’s really big on off-ball screens where they come off triple screens, down screens, and then they like to play out the post a lot. So, our coaches have really done a good job this week on scout and I feel like we’ll be ready.”
Another star on this deep Purdue team is Jaden Ivey. The preseason All-Big Ten guard is the playmaker of this Boilermakers bunch.
Ivey, a South Bend, Ind. area product who Indiana never gave a scholarship offer to, is averaging 16.4 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game. The sophomore was also announced as a midseason Wooden Award finalist.
In the most recent NBA mock draft by The Athletic, they had Ivey going fourth overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“He’s a handful, man. I can’t help but think if he continues to grow and learn, he’s going to be really, really, really good. He’s a good player now. He does a lot of wonderful things on the floor. His speed really up and down the floor changes the game,” Woodson said of Ivey.
“He’s a guy that’s able to go and kind of get shots and do his thing on his own, and that causes a problem, too, because you’ve got to always know where he is and when he’s got the ball in his hand he’s a major threat.”
It has been six years since the Hoosiers have defeated a Top 5 team at home. Their last one came in the 2016-17 season when they beat No. 3 North Carolina. However, they did defeat No. 6 Michigan State at home in early March of 2019..
While Purdue will present a stiff challenge, Indiana will have a raucous crowd on its side. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall should be filled with many Hoosier fans as well as the handful of brave Purdue fans who make the trip. Tickets have been going around $200 and up for the main concourse level.
“It’s gonna be crazy,” Phinisee said of the atmosphere. “Not having fans last year was a big part. The energy with both teams this year there is a lot more buzz between the two teams this year. So, I’m ready to go out there and see how it feels out there.”
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