BOZICH | Indiana goes to the edge as Must-Win goes to Purdue
Indiana matched Purdue play-for-play for nearly 37 minutes but turnovers and defense, two problems all season, helped tag the Hoosiers with a 69-64 defeat Thursday night.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Dick Vitale worked at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall more than two months ago when Indiana defeated North Carolina. He has not forgotten the Hoosiers beat Kansas, a formidable team Vitale believes deserves a One-Seed in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s November nostalgia.
This, Vitale said, is February reality:
Indiana had to defeat Purdue and Michigan at home this week if the Hoosiers expect to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Not Purdue or Michigan.
Purdue and Michigan.
If the Hoosiers are going to beat Purdue and Michigan, the victory against the Boilermakers will have to happen in West Lafayette Feb. 28. Purdue bounced into Assembly Hall and defeated IU, 69-64, Thursday night.
Tom Crean’s team has lost seven of 12 Big Ten games. Four of their final six games are booked on the road. They’re officially a 10-loss team (with 15 wins).
Once inside (the NCAA field) looking out, the Hoosiers are now likely outside looking in. They'll have to play their way -- and make their case.
“We’ve just got to stay together and keep fighting, through thicks and thins and ups and downs,” said Thomas Bryant, Indiana’s center.
“It’s definitely tough to swallow,” said teammate James Blackmon Jr. “We’ve got a lot of games left. We’ve got to have short memories because we play them again.”
When Crean was asked about IU's NCAA chances, the coach was not interested in bracketology.
"We've got to get ready to play Michigan," he said. "I'm not smart enough to think past that ... I go back to our margin of error and we're just not lighting it up."
Indiana's starting guards missed 26 of 34 shots.That's enough to lose a game with no other issues. De'Ron Davis joined the Hoosiers' lengthy injury list after going to the floor from the force of Isaac Haas' right forearm. Davis didn't get a call -- and Purdue got a three-point basket while attacking 5 on 4 with Davis on the ground. A crazier play in the final 44 seconds resulted in Thomas Bryant losing a basket while Bryant and Purdue''s best big man, forward Caleb Swanigan both fouled out of the game.
“There’s no doubt there is going to be a change in the game play,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “They get the call Bryant’s going to the line. If we get the ball, we are taking the ball out of bounds.”
“It was a momentum (changer), no question,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “It was a one-possession game with the basket, right?”
Somebody asked Crean if it was a sportsmanship game where you stop the game because an injured player is on the floor and does not get up.
The answer, of course, is no, because guys fake injuries to stop play. But somebody asked because Davis' injury was legit. He went directly to the trainer's room. His availability for Michigan is uncertain.
“That’s the referee’s call,” Crean said. “Yeah, I don’t think they can stop the flow. I mean, I don’t know. It’s a good question. That’s a good question. I don’t know what the exact rule is on that. But they did score the basket, right? They did score.”
"We've got to get ready to play Michigan," he said. "I'm not smart enough to think past that."
Turnovers and defense have been issues for Crean’s team this season. The turnovers and defense were under control against the Boilermakers – until it counted.
After coughing up a four-point halftime lead, the Hoosiers were tied with the Boilermakers at 57. The final 3 ½ minutes of this game will not make the season highlights video.
A soft entry pass from Juwan Morgan to Thomas Bryant was stolen, an unnecessary turnover that Purdue quickly turned into a basket.
Bryant missed two free throws.
James Blackmon Jr. missed a blockout on P.J. Thompson. Blackmon is 6 feet 4. Thompson is 5-10. Ouch. Thompson converted his prize into an offensive rebound and basket.
"We can't miss blockouts," Crean said. "We can't be late on a rotation coming out of a timeout. Our margin for error is very thin."
Blackmon followed with a turnover when he was stripped by freshman Carsen Edwards while trying to launch a three-point shot. That also happened on Indiana’s final possession of the first half, too. Instead of six points, Indiana got none.
“Down the stretch I felt like they got us on the rebounds,” Blackmon said. “We’ve got to be better with the basketball, taking care of the basketball."
Another defensive breakdown by the Hoosiers led to a three-point play by Caleb Swanigan with 62 seconds to play. That bumped Purdue ahead 64-59.
The Boilermakers are a poised and veteran team. They knew how to finish the assignment. They moved into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten with nine wins in a dozen games. They trail only Wisconsin.
Three players carried Purdue. Credit Swanigan, their mammoth center, with 16 points and 14 rebounds. He played like the guy who deserved his mammoth spread in Sports Illustrated this week, like a legitimate contender for the Wooden Award. It’s a news flash when Swanigan does not finish with a double double.
Give Vincent Edwards a game-high 26 points. Carsen Edwards, the freshman, played like a senior, hurting Indiana with 13 points and four assists, plus those two key strips of Blackmon.
For the Hoosiers, it was the Thomas Bryant Show. He led IU with 23 points, but contributed only three rebounds.
Blackmon, in his first game back after missing three with a leg injury, was the only other guy to score double figures. He had 11.
“The best of us have just got to bring the fight that (Bryant) did,” Blackmon said.
Indiana needs Blackmon and Robert Johnson to make jump shots to win. They did not make jump shots against Purdue. They missed 20 of 25 shots, including 11 of 13 from distance. The Hoosiers do not have enough scorers to overcome that, especially against a team as formidable as Purdue.
Indiana had issues to overcome Thursday, beyond the absence of forward OG Anunoby, who had season-ending knee surgery.
In the first half, Indiana was whistled for five fouls, including two on Thomas Bryant as well as two on guard Josh Newkirk, before Purdue was assessed one. Juwan Morgan has three personals before halftime.
De’Ron Davis, IU’s most effective front-court reserve, took a blow to the face with about 12 minutes to play, tumbling to the floor at the Indiana basket. Play continued. Purdue made a three-point shot before a whistle blew. Davis was assisted to the locker room. He did not return to the game.
"De'Ron took a hard blow to the face," Crean said. "Hopefully, he'll be OK ... Yeah, that's the referee's call there. I don't think you can stop the flow. But I don't know. It's a good question. It's s good question. I don't know what the exact rule is on that. They did score.
"Really, in all honesty for that not to be anything ... Call the foul on De'Ron, right? I mean, something happened."
Michigan indeed visits Saturday. The Wolverines overwhelmed the Hoosiers by 30 points two weeks ago. Coach John Beilein’s team added to their NCAA Tournament credentials by beating Michigan State by 29 on Monday.
The Hoosiers have played better their last two games against Wisconsin and Purdue. But they need to upgrade their resume. So do the Wolverines. Should be fun.
"Down the road, this really helps the team," Crean said. "It just doesn't feel very good right now."
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.