IU-Purdue is back.
Indiana men’s basketball has one of its biggest games of the year on Tuesday when archrival Purdue comes to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Boilermakers slipped to No. 2 in the AP Poll this week after losing at Nebraska last week. They’ve been ranked no lower than fourth this season; they’ve spent five weeks ranked No. 1, and this will be their sixth below the top spot.
IU head coach Mike Woodson held a media availability over Zoom on Monday morning ahead of the big game. Here are a few key topics he discussed.
The rivalry is alive
This will be the 218th edition of one of the strongest rivalries in college basketball.
Purdue leads the all-time series 125-92, dating back to 1901. The Boilermakers went on an extended run in the series from 2014 through 2021, with 12 wins in 13 matchups. But the Hoosiers have swung it back in their direction in recent years, with three wins in the last four meetings. That turnaround has come as Purdue has ascended to the top of the polls over the last few seasons, making the victories taste even sweeter for IU.
Woodson has experience in this rivalry both as a player and a coach, and he said these games remain a little different for him.
“They want to beat us as badly as we want to beat them. It’s been that way. I think it’s great for college basketball,” Woodson said. “They have their fan base, and we have our fan base. When you go there, it’s the same way. When they come here, our fans are unbelievable. It doesn’t matter who we put in Assembly Hall , our fans have been great all these years, and that’s not going to change.”
He made clear that he doesn’t approach the Purdue game from a coaching standpoint differently than he does any other game. And he’s preaching that mentality to his team, with a lot of new players who haven’t played in this rivalry before. But the history involved in this matchup undoubtedly gets Woodson going.
Edey and co.
Recent iterations of IU-Purdue games centered around the battle between Zach Edey and Trayce Jackson-Davis in the paint.
Edey, the reigning National Player of the Year, is having another stellar season. He’s leading Purdue with 22.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. But this year, Indiana doesn’t have a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year to combat him. Kel’el Ware, at 7-foot-1, has the height to remain competitive against Edey, even if the Canadian has a few inches on him. But he’ll have to hang tough against the physicality Edey brings, and that style has given him some issues at times this season.
Ware’s rebounding improvements, with 31 in the last two games, could be big in that matchup.
“When we first got him, that didn’t even exist in terms of him making second and third efforts to try to go get the basketball. A lot of it was he just hadn’t been taught and pushed to do it,” Woodson said about Ware. “It’s like night and day from the time we got him to where he is today in terms of going hard and understanding that you just can’t take possessions off.”
But the Boilermakers may be even more lethal this season than they were last year because of the players around Edey. Fletcher Loyer averaged just shy of 11 points per game last year, and he’s around that mark again. But Braden Smith (12.4 ppg) has made a big leap, and Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones (11.3 ppg) has been a sound addition.
Purdue, as a team, is 11th in the country with 85 points per game, and ranks ninth in the nation by shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range. That high level of outside shooting, combined with Edey’s prowess inside, makes the Boilermakers an extremely formidable opponent.
“That’s the biggest challenge: you’re going to have to guard the 3-point line and still deal with Edey,” Woodson said. “He’s getting more touches, probably more than he got last season. He’s a load. I mean, I don’t even know how to explain it. He’s a big guy that’s very skilled and tough to deal with.”
Woodson’s substitution patterns and rotations have been a growing talking point over the last several games, as his bigger line shifts have led to some opponent runs.
It didn’t happen — at least not in a large scale — during IU’s last game, the home win over Minnesota. But the bench lineup’s main stint on the floor at Rutgers was when the Scarlet Knights swung the game in their favor.
Woodson has been asked about the substitutions more frequently since conference play restarted, and has made clear he won’t discuss details of Indiana’s rotations with the media. During Monday’s Zoom, he was asked about Payton Sparks, specifically, and if Purdue could be a good matchup to utilize the sophomore off the bench. And Woodson reiterated his point.
“I’m not going to — when I substitute, put people in the game, I get questioned about how I sub. I’m not even going to discuss the rotations in terms of how — if there’s foul trouble, sure, you have to play him. He’s a big body that bangs,” Woodson said about Sparks. “Until we get into the game and see how it’s flowing, I’m hoping I can keep Malik and big fella Ware out of foul trouble. Edey’s a load. If they are, then it’s next man up, Payton’s got to play some, if that happens.”