When two relatively evenly-matched college basketball rivals meet up, fine margins can often decide the game. The difference between victory and defeat can be slim.
That was the case in Saturday’s game between No. 1 Purdue and No. 21 Indiana. And on this day, the Hoosiers found the necessary resolve to win.
The Boilermakers fought back in the second half, but Indiana made the plays down the stretch to put the game away. And that sent IU to a 79-74 win, its second win over its in-state rival in the last three matchups.
“We honestly just played hard, we played together, and we really fed off the crowd,” IU senior Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “A lot of the second half didn’t go our way, but we still fought through and found a way to win.”
Indiana (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) dominated the first half, on the back of another big effort from Jackson-Davis and some key outside shots, and went to the locker room with a 15-point lead. But Purdue (22-2, 11-2) is highly-ranked for a reason, and a counterattack was inevitable. The Boilermakers came out in the second half and fed star big man Zach Edey, and IU couldn’t do much about it.
Edey feasted in the second half, shooting 9 for 11 for 18 points and 10 rebounds. Eight of those points came in the first four minutes of the half, as he willed his team back into the game.
“You’re not the No. 1 team in the country and not be able to make runs,” IU head coach Mike Woodson said. “I thought we got a little stagnant the second half, and their defense picked up, and we didn’t have a lot of answers for Big Edey in the second half. He kind of had his way. He’s a big load, for any team. I thought, for the most part, we battled him. And then we made the plays that we needed to make coming home.”
Once Purdue got back in the contest, it was pretty back-and-forth the rest of the way — as you’d expect in a game like this. IU couldn’t quite pull away, and the Boilermakers chipped away at the scoreboard throughout the rest of the half. It was mostly Edey, but a couple big shots by David Jenkins Jr. and a few moments from Mason Gillis made a difference.
Purdue held IU scoreless for more than two minutes late in the game, and the Boilermakers cut their deficit to just one point at 71-70. But the Hoosiers responded. Race Thompson made a few huge plays, with an offensive rebound, two made free throws, and a steal. Woodson called timeout after that steal, with 41 seconds left in the game.
And then Jalen Hood-Schifino took matters into his own hands.
“When he called timeout, I told coach, I was like, ‘I’m going to get this last bucket.’ And obviously, as you see, that’s what happened,” Hood-Schifino said. “So I was happy with it.”
With a 73-70 lead and a chance to get his team some breathing room, the freshman drove through the Purdue defense, bounced off Edey mid-air, and finished a clutch layup.
Hood-Schifino has had big performances in several games this season, but this may have been his biggest individual play in an IU uniform. He stepped up when his team needed it most.
“Jalen has been great here at home. He’s had some good moments on the road,” Woodson said. “He asked for the ball coming down the stretch, and I drew up two plays to get it to him, and he delivered.”
Indiana did what it had to do to win. Trey Galloway made his free throws with 12 seconds left, denying Purdue an easy window back into the game. After initially having trouble getting the ball in with four seconds left, Woodson called timeout, and set up a perfectly-executed play to Hood-Schifino over the top to seal the victory.
IU hasn’t let many late leads slip this season — the Iowa loss was IU’s only such loss this season. But on many occasions, the Hoosiers have not responded properly when things go against them, whether that’s opponents making runs, internal miscues, unfriendly atmospheres, or something else.
But Saturday, the Hoosiers showed the mental toughness that eluded them on many occasions earlier this season.
“We didn’t cave,” Woodson said. “This team has had its ups and downs. When we’ve been in ballgames, we’ve been able to deliver. And I thought tonight they answered the bell.”
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