BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – The change in the Indiana basketball team on Tuesday night against rival Purdue might not have risen to the level of drastic. But it was welcome. The Hoosiers were engaged, fought hard defensively, and competed.
They did not, however, win. The attitude was different, the result the same.
The final: Purdue 48, Indiana 46.
The ugly stat update: The Hoosiers have not won in Assembly Hall since Jan. 3. They’ve lost five straight at home, three in a row at home to Purdue – an Assembly Hall first – and 11 of 12 overall.
Their fall from NCAA Tournament contention continues. Desperately in need of a storyline-changing win, they came within seconds of it against Purdue, but the long arm of Matt Haarms, extended over the left shoulder of Jawon Morgan, punched a rebound off the backboard and through the net with 3.2 seconds left, and put the Boilermakers ahead by the final score.
It was close. Haarms needed every bit of his 7-3 frame – and perhaps that extra “a” in his surname – to get to the ball. But he did, and Purdue did. And the Indiana heartbreak continues.
Having said all that, this loss was not like Indiana’s previous loss at Minnesota, or some of the others. This was a grittier Indiana team that was far more engaged on the defensive end. It was an Indiana team that held the Big Ten’s leading scorer to nine points on 4-24 shooting, including 0-for-10 from three-point range.
It was an ugly game, hardly befitting the state’s sharpshooting heritage. It was the lowest-scoring meeting in the rivalry since 1947. The teams combined to miss 81 shots, 40 by Indiana, 41 by Purdue. The Hoosiers went 6-19 on layups and dunks alone. They had their chances.
“I was proud of our effort,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “I was proud of our togetherness. And that’s the one thing that we have to hold onto now as we continue to push through. And that starts tomorrow. We’ve got to have short-term memory. But the team that took the floor tonight had a great disposition, and that’s the thing that needs to stay.”
The game itself was a rock fight. Miller called it, “as physical a game as I’ve ever been a part of.” There were minor scuffles in each half. Haarms drew a technical in the first half after tangling with De’Ron Davis, and drew loud boos from the Indiana crowd the rest of the game.
Langford began to assert himself offensively late in the first half, scoring Indiana’s last seven points before the half to tie the game at 20.
Coming out for the second half, Langford vomited near the bench, and was walked back into the locker room by trainers. He came back, 6 ½ minutes into the second half. He did not attempt a field goal in the second half, in part because of dogged defense by Purdue. He did, however, wind up 9-10 from the line and was the only Indiana player to score in double digits, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“He drew seven fouls and took 10 free throws so it wasn’t as if he wasn’t being aggressive,” Miller said. “I think a at times people underestimate how hard other teams work to not let him do what he wants to do. But he moved around tonight. We had him coming off a lot more running around, coming off a lot more movement. They did a really good job containing and keeping him in front of him so he had to be a willing passer, which I thought he was. But he was aggressive. He played really hard tonight. He rebounded the ball for us, gets nine defensive rebounds. So he played well. . . . He’s a gamer. He had a great couple of days leading into this. No one understands more than him how important he is to the team, and certain ways he has to play.”
The drastic change Miller promised, it seems, was a change in attitude and in “disposition,” a term he used several times after the game. He said it was something he talked about with his team, and that players talked about together. He said the team’s demeanor hadn’t been right since its 15-point home loss to Nebraska on Jan. 14, over a month ago, with the exception of a game or two.
That wasn’t a concern Tuesday night. You can tell when a team has packed it in. This one, against Purdue, clearly had not. It outrebounded Purdue 47-38. But the Hoosiers just couldn’t score. Not in the paint – where they were outscored 26-14, nor from three, where they were 5-25. They also turned the ball over 17 times, 27 percent of their possessions. But they fought through all of that.
“I just thought in general we had to drastically change our attitude, the way we think about things right now, how we approach our team concept and how we approach our practices,” Miller said. “We talked it out. Having our team speak was a big thing. And those guys obviously looked at one another and said this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. And now this change has to stay. Clearly we played a very good team tonight, in front of an amazing environment. I know there’s more to this game than most, but our team competed tonight at a great level. A lot of guys made a lot of hard plays. At the end of the day you’ve got to give them credit. They’re an excellent team. But I thought our team played well enough to win the game. It was an ugly game, for both teams.”
Six straight points at the seven-minute mark, including four from Davis, put the Hoosiers up 43-39 with 3:48 left, and it looked as if they might be poised to end their excruciating run of disappointment. But they would not get another field goal in the game.
Purdue got a three-pointer from Ryan Cline with 2:17 left to pull within a point. Indiana’s key late mistake came next out of a timeout, when it turned the ball over trying to go inside to Morgan. Purdue, after a timeout, gave Carsen Edwards the ball at the top of the key and he drove for a layup with 38 seconds left to put the Boilermakers up by one.
Langford was fouled on IU’s next possession, and made the first free-throw to tie the game, then missed the second.
Purdue came down without a timeout, and Edwards missed a jumper, but Haarms got his tip-in, and the Hoosiers were hurting once again.
Hurting, Miller acknowledged, but they’ll need to get over it fast.
“For us, we’ve got to stay with what we talked about in the last 48 hours,” Miller said. “The guys in that locker room have to understand. The sting is there, but the disposition, the mentality, has to stay with what we got tonight.”
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