It has been more than 3 years since Indiana's last win over in-state rival Purdue, and Matt Painter brings another very capable squad to Bloomington on Saturday night.
The Boilermakers (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten) have had an up and down Big Ten season and currently sit on the outside looking in on the conference championship chase. The Boilers are a full two games behind Indiana and Iowa for first place with four games to go, but a win on Saturday would put them squarely back in the race.
For Indiana, the stakes are even higher. Nobody outside the IU locker room expected this team to be in this spot with four games to go, but here they are, a legitimate contender to win their first Big Ten crown since the 2012-13 season. Iowa's loss at Penn State coupled with Maryland's shocking loss at Minnesota means Indiana controls its own destiny. If the Hoosiers (21-6, 11-3) hope to accomplish that feat, they'll likely need a win over Purdue, a team that has struggled on the road this year. Indiana still has games at Iowa and vs. Maryland coming up, so any missteps at this point could take IU out of the title race.
A regular season Big Ten title isn't the end-all be-all of course, but it would be a significant accomplishment and a nice confidence boost for the Hoosiers heading into the postseason. Here's a look at what the numbers suggest about Saturday's Indiana-Purdue matchup, and what the game will likely come down to.
1. SHOOT, WE DARE YOU: It doesn't take a genius to recognize Purdue's strength lies in its interior play. A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan make up one of the best frontcourts in all of college basketball, and teams have given those guys great respect this year.
Many teams have played Purdue by packing the lane and daring guys like Swanigan and Raphael Davis to shoot from the perimeter. When Davis and Swanigan knock down those shots, Purdue wins, and usually by a wide margin. When they don't -- or when they settle for too many of them -- the Boilers struggle to beat even the bottom feeders of the Big Ten.
- In 9 Big Ten wins, Davis is 14-of-31 from beyond the arc.
- In 5 Big Ten losses, he's 2-of-14 from distance.
- In Big Ten home games, Davis is 13-of-29 on 3s.
- In Big Ten road games, he's 3-of-16.
In Purdue's only really impressive conference win this season -- an 82-81 home triumph over Michigan State last week -- Davis made six 3s, nearly half of his total for all of Big Ten play.
The percentages suggest Indiana should dare Davis and Swanigan to beat it from the perimeter while sending extra help to the post to slow down Hammons and Co.
2. CAN BRYANT STAY OUT OF FOUL TROUBLE?: Unlike last year, Indiana has a legitimate center to throw at Hammons and Haas in Thomas Bryant this season. But that won't matter a whole lot if Bryant gets into early foul trouble like he has at times during conference play. The Hoosiers can't afford to have Bryant pick up two quick fouls and sit for long stretches. I believe OG Anunoby is capable of guarding Hammons as well, and I wouldn't be shocked if Tom Crean opted to start the game with Anunoby on Hammons and Bryant on Swanigan to protect him from early foul issues. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Indiana play a decent amount of zone.
How Crean and Indiana choose to play Hammons will play a large role in deciding the outcome of Saturday's game. In Purdue's 9 Big Ten wins, Hammons is averaging 17.9 points and 8.9 rebounds on 12.2 shots per game. In the Boilers' 5 conference losses, he's averaging 11.8 points and 7 rebounds on 9 shots per game.
When the two teams met at Assembly Hall last season, Hammons went for 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Can the Hoosiers do a better job on him this time around?
3. CONTRASTING STYLES: While it's not as drastic as it was a year ago, Indiana and Purdue have very contrasting styles of play. The Hoosiers have added size, but they're still a guard-oriented team that thrives in transition. The Boilers don't get out and run nearly as much, and they get most of their scoring from the post positions.
A major key to Saturday's game will be which team is able to impose its will on the other and force them to play their style and at their pace. The Hoosiers didn't get many transition opportunities against the Boilers last year, and Purdue is one of the more difficult teams to play against in the half court. The shot blocking of Hammons along with the perimeter defense of Davis are big reasons why the Boilers rank 7th nationally in defensive efficiency, making them the best defensive team Indiana will have played this season.
Indiana must get out and run to beat Purdue, and to do that, it will have to keep the ball out of the paint on the other end. Going back to key #1, if the Hoosiers can force Davis and Swanigan to shoot from the perimeter, their chances of getting easy shots in transition will be much higher.
4. BATTLE OF THE BENCHES: One of the major differences for Indiana this season has been its depth off the bench, something the Hoosiers never really had a year ago. They had only two bench points in last season's loss to Purdue in Bloomington. Collin Hartman and Nick Zeisloft were both scoreless.
Indiana's bench has been much more consistent this year, and the roles are much more defined. Adding Max Bielfeldt has really helped in that area, as has the addition of OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, and the consistent shooting of Zeisloft.
The battle of the benches will be important on Saturday. Purdue has had depth at various points this year, but it hasn't been consistent of late. Haas is a known quantity off the bench, but Painter has had to tinker with the rest of his rotation as the year has gone on. Dakota Mathias, who almost single-handledly beat Wisconsin in the Boilers' first Big Ten game, has really struggled lately, scoring only 24 points in his last 7 games. The once-promising Kendall Stephens has been buried on the bench, playing 4 or fewer minutes in Purdue's last 8 games. Stephens scored in double figures in six non-conference games this season.
The struggles of others has opened the door for freshman Ryan Cline, who has become a rotation player much earlier than many expected. The Carmel, Ind. native has scored 20 points in his last 2 games after scoring a total of 38 points over the first 12 Big Ten games. He's 7-of-13 from beyond the arc in his last 3 games after shooting 11-of-40 from distance in the first 11 Big Ten games. Purdue has made 10 3-pointers in its last two games, and Cline has 6 of them.
Senior guard Johnny Hill has also been solid for Painter and the Boilers, and he's coming off his best game of the year on Tuesday against Northwestern. Hill had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 26 minutes in the Boilers' 71-61 win.
5. KEY KENPOM NUMBERS:
|Adj. Efficiency||110.1 60||92.0 7||103.5|
|Adj. Tempo||69.1 172||69.2|
|Avg. Poss. Length||16.8 116||18.0 305||17.2|
|Effective FG%:||52.1 86||43.2 4||49.8|
|Turnover %:||17.8 139||14.5 342||18.3|
|Off. Reb. %:||36.0 26||23.1 5||29.9|
|FTA/FGA:||34.9 220||28.5 30||36.8|
|Adj. Efficiency||116.4 14||97.7 60||103.5|
|Adj. Tempo||69.9 131||69.2|
|Avg. Poss. Length||16.5 94||17.8 285||17.2|
|Effective FG%:||58.8 2||49.3 147||49.8|
|Turnover %:||20.2 294||19.1 126||18.3|
|Off. Reb. %:||38.2 10||28.9 123||29.9|
|FTA/FGA:||33.7 250||29.9 47||36.8|