Indiana fell under .500 for the first time all season in a hard-fought loss at Purdue Tuesday night. The Hoosiers (12-13) found themselves in a real meat grinder of a game and while they didn't back down, they simply couldn't match buckets with the Boilers. Inside we take a look at the key storylines and events from the game.
It's actually hard to pinpoint a particular moment when this game really swung on its axis and that's a compliment to the type of prolonged battle it was. The Boilermakers won this one with a slow grind that steadily wore the Hoosiers down. In the end the Hoosiers just didn't have what it took to make a real rally to close the deficit and in the final minutes it turned into a double digit loss.
If there was a key moment, it happened midway through the opening half. For most of the second half Purdue enjoyed a 7-9 point lead and it was one they built in the first half. After a cold shooting, slow start, the Boilermakers found themselves down 16-12 early. That's when senior E'Twaun Moore broke out of his slump and hit his only three-pointers of the game in succession. In just under three minutes of play the Boilermakers went on a 13-2 run powered by Moore's deep strikes to take a 25-18 lead with 5:50 left in the half. Indiana quickly called a timeout, but the damage was done. Moore would lead all scorers with 25 points and it was during this stretch that his game spoke loudest.
When It Was Over
With five minutes left in the game the Hoosiers were down 59-51, but still had plenty of time to make a run. They would hold the Boilermakers scoreless over the next three minutes, but their offense couldn't respond. The next points of the game wouldn't occur until JaJuan Johnson made the back end of a one-and-one with just over two minutes left. From there it was a parade of players to the foul stripe for the Boilers and it was clear that IU had missed their last window of opportunity in this one.
We have to reward Will Sheehey
for the finest effort of his young college career. The springy true freshman rolled his ankle competing for a rebound with five minutes left in the first half and it looked for a moment like his night might be over. Instead, he responded with an inspired effort in the second half and seemed like the only Hoosier that wasn't severely hampered by Purdue's physical defense. He finished with a career-high 14 points and contributed across the stat sheet with three rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block. For a large stretch of the second half Sheehey was the IU offense with his constant forays to attack the rim. It certainly seemed like tonight was a big step forward in the development of the promising forward.
Why They Lost
Credit has to be immediately given to Purdue's defense, which held the Hoosiers 35.5% percent shooting overall and more impressively, just 2-15 from behind the arc. It was a physical game throughout and the Boilermakers strong perimeter defense was the perfect compliment to the shot blocking dominance of Johnson on the inside. Indiana's 24 first half points were a season-low and they only managed 29 in the second stanza.
Before the game Coach Matt Painter expressed his goal of containing Jordan Hulls
, the motor that drives the IU offense. It was mission accomplished as the duo of Lewis Jackson
and Kelsey Barlow helped limit Hulls to 6-15 shooting, 1-5 shooting from three-point range, and just two assists. You got the feeling that if Hulls, or someone, could have just hit a few more three-pointers this game would have gone down to the wire, but those buckets never came due to a tireless Purdue defensive effort.
All indications pointed to this game being a chance for JaJuan Johnson to further make his case for conference Player of the Year honors. The one time IU recruit has feasted on frontlines all year and while they have been playing better as of late, IU's frontline still doesn't strike fear into many hearts. That's why it was surprising to see how much of a pest Tom Pritchard
proved to be against Johnson. Earlier versions of Pritchard would have seen very few minutes in a match-up like this due to early foul trouble. Instead he played 32 minutes and was a constant thorn in Johnson's side. Granted, it was the Hoosiers' frequent double teams that really limited Johnson, but you can't undervalue the job Pritchard did in making those traps effective. Johnson would finish just 4-10 from the field with four turnovers and never really got into a rhythm all night. Credit goes to Pritchard for making it an off-night for Johnson.
Most Promising Development
It would be easy to point to the continued development of Sheehey as the most promising development, but I thought there was a bigger positive message to take from this game. This was one of the most physical Big Ten games of the year as the refs seemed intent on letting them play. Everyone figured a game like this would greatly favor the Boilermakers and in the end perhaps it did, but it was clear that the Hoosiers weren't backing down. Despite being outmanned, playing in hostile territory, and simply not catching many breaks offensively, the Hoosiers refused to let this one turn into a blowout. The final score is misleading due to late fouling and free throws, but I was most encouraged that Indiana held their own in this one physically. For a team that has had a reputation for being soft in previous years, this game really showed their development into a gritty unit is in full bloom.
Most Concerning Development
When Christian Watford went down with an injury every player on the Hoosier roster knew they were going to have give that much more, especially the frontcourt players. Some have answered the call (see: Pritchard, Tom) and others have struggled mightily. While it was probably expecting too much for Bobby Capobianco
to greatly increase his output, many did expect this to be a great chance for Derek Elston to blossom. The sophomore from Tipton has shown very brief flashes of brilliance during his IU career, but inconsistency plagued his freshman campaign. Instead of taking a big step forward this season, he seems to be mired in an all-out sophomore slump. He was a non-factor offensively once again in this one (0-2 FG, no points), but did pull down seven rebounds. The improved rebounding is a step in the right direction, but the Hoosiers could really use some offense out of him. He's running out of time to become that kind of contributor for IU this season.
The Hoosiers now head to Michigan this Saturday with the possibility of Watford returning to the court. With or without him the Hoosiers will have their hands full. The Wolverines haven't forgot about a lopsided defeat in Bloomington last month. I think it's safe to say (crossing my fingers with that statement due to IU's penchant for the unexpected) that the Hoosiers have finally become a team that will show up every night and fight until the final buzzer. That alone gives them a very good chance against a Michigan team that tends to coast for large stretches of time. If Indiana can bring the type of effort they brought to the state of Michigan two weeks ago against Michigan State they win this game. If the offensive woes bleed over into their next road stop then a Wolverine payback is in the cards.