TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana and Purdue have met 199 times on the basketball court, but game No. 200 in the series will be a bit different than recent matchups.
The Hoosiers’ 97-60 win at West Lafayette on Jan. 30 marked the first margin of 30-plus points since a 106-65 Indiana victory in Bloomington on Jan. 28, 1992.
The Boilermakers (12-13, 5-7 Big Ten) might be hoping they respond the way that season’s Purdue team did. The Boilermakers won the rematch later that season in West Lafayette, 61-59.
To do so, though, will mean making history. Purdue has never won on a No. 1 team’s home court. The only victories over a top-ranked team have come in West Lafayette (a January 1979 upset of Michigan State) and in Indianapolis (November 2000 against Arizona).
And given the way Purdue’s season has gone, an upset of the Hoosiers (22-3, 10-2) isn’t likely.
The Boilermakers have road wins over Big Ten cellar-dwellers Nebraska and Penn State, but they mustered little effort in Wednesday’s 79-59 loss at Illinois.
“When you have guys who are making mistakes, they need to sit and watch. I don’t care what class they’re in,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “When they don’t and they continue to play, on a subconscious level, they think it’s OK what they’re doing. It’s been a difficult thing for us to get them to understand how hard they have to play and how hard it is to play organized basketball at both ends.”
Painter was ejected from the Illinois game after arguing with the officials. Afterwards, he expressed his frustration with his team’s effort.
“You get to that certain point, you want your team to play harder, you want your team to embrace the physicality of the game. And they weren’t,” he said.
Contrast that with Indiana’s effort the same night against Nebraska. The Hoosiers endured a 10-minute slump in the first half during which they were 0-for-8 from the field and fell behind 14-11.
IU answered with a 10-0 run to regain the lead, closed the half on a 6-0 run with all six points coming at the free-throw line, then opened the second half with a 7-0 run to effectively put the game away.
“We kept waiting for the game to go our way in the first half, and nobody got discouraged or got sped up to the point where we started forcing the action,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said after the 76-47 win.
“I thought that we were playing really hard, really solid and just waiting for it to break. … I think that’s the sign of a team that’s maturing and getting better.”
Perhaps that’s the biggest difference between the two programs right now.
Purdue’s starting lineup is heavy on youth, with freshmen A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson and redshirt freshman Donnie Hale.
And while the Hoosiers’ top players are sophomore Cody Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo, seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford have been key leaders on and off the court.
Painter tried to recruit Hulls to Purdue and recalled how that pursuit was taken.
“When I offered Jordan Hulls a scholarship, people laughed at me,” Painter said. “And no one’s laughing today, because he’s a worker.
“He’s a 12-month guy, and that’s what I really stress. We need more 12-month guys,” he added. “Those types of guys, it gets contagious, because when you walk into a program and there are players like E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel