BOZICH | Indiana can't stop Purdue's push for NCAA top seed
Indiana led Purdue for nearly half the game but the Boilermakers asserted themselves in the second half and showed whey they're likely a Number One seed in the NCAA Tournament in Match.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – How could a team that lost to Indiana State at home by a million beat the best team in the Big Ten?
How could a team that lost to Fort Wayne by a thousand at home beat the Number 3 team in America?
How could the most inconsistent Indiana team in seven years beat the best Purdue team in 38 years?
Here is the Purdue DNA: Four seniors. Shooters. Two 7-footers. Depth. Veteran coach. The Boilermakers have been as efficient on offense as they’ve been on defense. Third in offensive efficiency at Ken Pomeroy, seventh in defensive efficiency. They’re going to be a Number One seed when the NCAA Tournament begins.
An imperfect Indiana team needed to play a perfect game – or as close to perfection as an undersized team with erratic guards can play.
Not 32 minutes of very good play and eight minutes of missed assignments.
Beating Purdue required 40 minutes of playing as well as Indiana has played all season.
Purdue 74, Indiana 67.
The Hoosiers are considerably better than they were when they burped against Indiana State and Fort Wayne, but not good enough to beat the Big Ten's best, even when Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall was as juiced as it has been this season.
Indiana led for nearly 19 minutes but when it was time for somebody to make winning plays that team was Matt Painter’s Purdue team, which set a school record by winning for the 17th consecutive game.
“It just all clicks for them,” Indiana forward Juwan Morgan said. “The way they play off each other. The way they move the basketball. They shoot the ball at a tremendous rate.”
“Hats off to Purdue,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “This was a tough environment to come in and win. But that’s what really good teams do, they find a way to win.”
For Miller the game had the same irritating post-game vibe as the one the Hoosiers lost to Duke by 10 in Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall in November.
The Hoosiers performed better than the wise guys who predicting a 15-to-20 point loss were predicting. They simply didn’t play well enough to win. Margin of error are three words that are not in Miller’s vocabulary with this 12-10 team. There is no margin of error against Top 25 teams.
The Hoosiers need another shooter. They probably need a pair. Throw in another dependable scorer and defender on the block. Depth wouldn’t hurt. It’s going to take Miller another recruiting class, maybe two, to compete for a Big Ten title against full-sized veteran squads like Purdue. It's not a mammoth rebuilding job but there are plenty of gaps in this team, which lost for the 10th time in 22 games and has split 10 Big Ten games.
“Very disappointing,” said Miller, who blamed himself for the way his team wobbled down the stretch. “We squandered possessions. You can’t do that late in a big game or they’ll make you pay.”
Two Indiana players – Morgan (24) and Robert Johnson (21) – did the most important offensive work. Purdue responded with a big three – Isaac Haas (26), Vincent Edwards (19) and Carsen Edwards (10).
For about 32 minutes Indiana appeared that it was in position for a legitimate Shock The College Basketball World moment.
This was the formula: Limit turnovers. Defend the three-point line as if their scholarship money was riding on it. Make free throw after free throw.
Hope for more than your share of favorable rolls, friendly whistles and unexpected treats.
The Hoosiers limited their turnovers. They defended with passion. They rode efficient offensive play from Morgan and Johnson.
Then Purdue did what the Boilermakers have done to Arizona, Louisville, Michigan and everybody but Tennessee and Western Kentucky on their schedule:
Purdue punished Indiana with its size, muscle and poise. Behind 57-56 with about 7 ½ minutes to play, the Boilermakers outscored IU 18-10 when it mattered.
“We just never got that one stop we needed to make our run to get a five-or-six-point lead,” Johnson said.
The Hoosiers could not make shots from distance, missing 13 of 16. They struggled from the free throw line – as they have all season, missing 7 of 17. They made only 10 turnovers, but three were unforced and crushing in the final 4 ½ minutes.
Inside play was a challenge for Miller’s team. Forward Collin Hartman, leg injury, joined center De’Ron Davis, torn Achilles’ tendon, on the IU bench.
What did Indiana do with its smaller lineup?
Attack. The Hoosiers first eight baskets came at the rim. They jumped ahead 10-2. They defended well enough that Purdue missed its first six shots from distance and the Boilermakers have been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation all season.
Both team decided it was a perfect time to show off some their star power. Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm brought his family to watch the game from the first row behind the Boilermakers’ bench.
Indiana topped that. Victor Oladipo, the star of the Hoosiers’ 2013 Big Ten championship team, celebrated his selection as an NBA all-star by receiving his No. 4 jersey in a frame from athletic director Fred Glass prior to the game.
The most difficult stretch of the season continues for Indiana this week. The Hoosiers visit Ohio State, the league’s second-place team, Tuesday and then return home to play pre-season favorite Michigan State Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
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