Indiana isn’t going to make this easy.
After its worst shooting performance in six years and a seventh straight loss to Purdue, IU isn’t going to be finding a comfortable spot in the NCAA Tournament anytime soon.
The Hoosiers could never get comfortable in a tough road venue on Thursday night. And while they battled throughout, IU never gave itself a chance on the offensive end of the floor in a 57-49 loss at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
Another challenging road contest awaits.
Indiana (18-10, 8-9) will travel to Illinois on Sunday afternoon. That game will tip at 2 p.m. ET at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The Hoosiers showed promised with seven early offensive rebounds and an aggressive effort on both ends that led to a lead.
IU opened the game with a 7-2 margin at the 15:54 point of the first half after Purdue had scored the opening basket. All seven points came from Hoosier big men.
Despite shooting a miserable 21 percent before the break, Indiana hung around. It was a one point game with 3:44 to go before halftime.
But a run of late turnovers gave Purdue all the momentum they would need in this one.
“The game. It was the game,” IU head coach Miller said of Indiana’s three turnovers in the last three minutes of the first half. “It was a 23-20 game and the last two minutes they go into halftime 29-20. In this type of game that nine point lead is like 15 or 16.”
The Hoosiers would go more than 10 minutes without a field goal in a drought that spanned both halves, and the Boilermaker lead would swell to 16 before Indiana mounted a late rally.
After trailing 36-20, the Hoosiers went on a 10-2 run, capped off by five-straight points by sophomore guard Rob Phinisee. That forced a Purdue timeout with 10:33 remaining in the game.
Indiana would stay within striking distance, and a layup by redshirt sophomore Race Thompson with 3:04 remaining in the game helped Indiana cut the deficit to 48-42. IU held the Boilermakers scoreless for 3:31 during that stretch, but there simply wasn’t enough offense to get over the hump on this night.
While the outcome was disappointing, this wasn’t a game where IU’s effort was in question.
“Every four minute timeout our guys had a good attitude,” Miller said. “The guys that were playing were playing hard and we ended up continuing to grind it out and dig it out.
“I will say to our players credit, I thought we really played hard.”
Those early baskets from Indiana’s big men were fool’s gold.
IU starters Joey Brunk, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Justin Smith would combine to go 6-for-23 for the game, and save for a couple jump shots by Smith, those were all attempts in the paint.
“I thought those guys (Purdue) defended very well, in particular in the paint they made it very, very difficult for us around the rim,” Miller said. “Post doubles continue to take our big guys out of the game.
“They trap the post every single time that you catch the ball. They’re physical around the basket when you do catch the ball. Even our uncontested ones were rushed.”
As bad as Indiana looked against Purdue’s scheme, the Hoosiers can now expect more of the same the rest of the way.
Miller and his staff have to find a way to make teams pay for getting out of position. But they couldn’t find the answers on Thursday night.
“I thought there were times when they doubled the post that could have been our best offense,” Miller said. “Get it out on the rotation, move it around and find a way to strike a little bit while they’re rotating. When we did do that well we weren’t able to capitalize.
“Our inability to stretch the floor and make some shots was a problem. You’re going to have to make some open shots.”
With the paint clogged, the Hoosiers spent a lot of time simply passing the ball around the perimeter, with no fluidity to the offense.
“If something didn’t work we stood too much,” Miller said. “We needed to get a little more movement. Later in the second half we were able to create some drives.”
All of this leaves you wondering. Against matchups like this, would Indiana be better off just putting their four best shooters on the perimeter along with a big man? More of the same doesn’t seem like a solution going forward.
Indiana’s defense was good enough to win on the road.
“If I look at the percentages defensively you would probably say that we played a pretty good game against them,” Miller said.
IU’s defense held Purdue to 21-of-56 (37.5 percent) from the floor and for the third-straight game the Hoosiers allowed the lowest 3-point shooting efficiency of the season as the Boilermakers only shot 2-of-17 (11.8 percent) from behind the arc.
The Hoosiers forced more turnovers (11) than they allowed assists (9) and they didn’t foul a great deal. All the ingredients were there to steal a win on the road.
And perhaps most encouraging, Indiana kept grinding despite their inept effort on the other end of the floor.
“I thought from a defensive standpoint, especially in the midway point of the second half when you could cave in and its not feeling good in there, that wasn’t the case with our team,” Miller said. “So I like that.”
Of course it wasn’t perfect. It never is.
The Hoosiers allowed 12 offensive rebounds, including five by Trevion Williams.
In order to protect against Purdue’s three-point shooters IU chose not to double Williams, and although he was somewhat inefficient (8-of-17), Williams was able to snare several of his own misses and make key baskets to help keep Indiana from pulling closer.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- IU players post-game
- Painter post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (C) Brunk worked hard on the glass with a rebound every two minutes, including four on the offensive end. But like all of IU’s big men he couldn’t convert in the paint.
- Justin Smith* (D) This is probably an opponent that Smith should not play meaningful minutes against. There are no defensive matchups where his presence is necessitated, and he becomes a liability on offense when teams pack the paint.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (D) Whether nervous or too fired up, Jackson-Davis had several bad misses early and Purdue took him out of the game from there. He is going to need to become much better at reading and reacting to double teams, and a poor defensive decision hedging on Nojel Eastern contributed to the late first half collapse.
- Al Durham* (D-) Don’t blame Durham for the last play of the first half. He should have never been put in that position. But this was still a really unfortunate day for an upperclassman captain.
- Rob Phinisee* (B-) The shooting numbers don’t look good but Phinisee had to force the issue with nothing else available. Just one turnover in that environment is a steady effort.
- Jerome Hunter (D) This was a game where you needed Hunter to come in and knock down shots to make Purdue pay for packing the paint. That didn’t happen, and his presence wasn’t really felt in this one.
- Devonte Green (C-) It is easy to criticize the 3-of-15 shooting day, but who else was going to score? If the shots fall Green is the hero. The four turnovers were much more concerning.
- De’Ron Davis (C) Davis continues to give IU serviceable minutes and he did a respectable job defensively.
- Race Thompson (A) At times it appears that Thompson is the only player that truly gets what is required from a physicality and effort level. He was the best player on the floor for Indiana — and it wasn’t close. After just six first half minutes after picking up two fouls, are his 16 minutes after the break a sign of things to come?
- Armaan Franklin (D) Franklin knocked down a big first half three-pointer, but he struggled to even stay on his feet and overall looked more like a freshman in this game than any all season.
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