How do you defend Caleb Swanigan without fouling? That was a question Indiana couldn't answer tonight.
In the end that contributed as much as anything to a 86-75 loss at Mackey Arena tonight, the second loss of the season to Purdue.
With the victory the Boilermakers clinch a share of the Big Ten title, moving to 13-4 in the league and 24-6 overall.
Indiana drops to 16-14 and 6-11 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will finish regular season play Saturday afternoon at Ohio State.
After falling behind by 15 points late in the opening half, Indiana fought back to get into this one by scoring the final seven points, going in at a more reasonable 40-32 deficit. Not a bad outcome considering 11 first half turnovers by the Hoosiers.
"An eight point game, it wasn't insurmountable," Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
When Indiana's center Thomas Bryant picked up his third foul just 1:25 into the second half, Purdue smartly emphasized going to the post on nearly every possession.
De'Ron Davis came in with one foul to replace Bryant. Two minutes later he was out with four fouls, committing three within a 47 second span.
When Bryant returned it took all of 1:15 on the clock for the sophomore to get his fourth.
The run of fouls changed the game. After back-to-back 3-pointers from James Blackmon Jr. and Juwan Morgan, Indiana has pulled within, 45-41.
That was as close as the Hoosiers would get. Almost every trip down the Boilers fed Swanigan, Vincent Edwards or big Isaac Haas. And they converted. The big man trio combined to knock down 21 of 22 free throw attempts.
Indiana did not earn a free throw till Blackmon got two with 10:57 left in the game.
"We could never match anywhere close to what was happening at the foul line," Crean said.
Swanigan, known as "Biggie," finished with yet another double-double, a game high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds. In what may have been the sophomore's last game at home, the Fort Wayne native likely locked up the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Just as he's been at some prior games, Indiana coach Tom Crean did not want want to address why his team picked up 19 fouls in the second half.
"I can't, I don't coach the officials, I coach Indiana," Crean said.
His argument was Indiana was getting it inside as evidenced by Indiana's 30-24 edge in points in the paint. Most of that was courtesy of drives by Josh Newkirk and Blackmon, who led the Hoosiers with 13 and 16, respectively.
"When you're scoring the points that we are and yet 15 points behind at the free throw line, it just hurt us," Crean said.
Hot shooting from junior guard Dakota Mathias made it difficult for Indiana to consider double-teaming inside. Mathias knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first half stretch that build the early 15 point lead. Mathias finished with 19 points, missing just four of 11 shots.
Later he talked about how the Indiana foul trouble changed the offensive approach in the final half.
"That was a conscious effort on our part," Mathias said. "I think we drew seven or eight fouls just like that. We were in the bonus and they had to sit some guys and put in some guys they don't usually play.
"Biggie made the plays and it just poses a problem when you got to shuffle in guys that don't play very much."
Many of the Hoosier big man fouls were the preventable kind. Overly aggressive drives leading to charges. Bryant picked up his fourth quickly going for an ill-advised knock-away. When he returned with just over seven minutes remaining, it only took 1:20 for him to foul out with his fifth.
Davis did him one better, taking just 10 seconds to foul out when he picked up a charge a few minutes before. That made four fouls in less than a minute of playing time.
Early Priller time
With his two main big men on the bench, Crean turned to little used junior Tim Priller and junior college transfer Freddie McSwain. Priller provided an offensive spark, scoring a career high six points in five minutes. But his lack of foot speed hurt at the other end as he picked up four fouls in that time. McSwain wasn't much better. Despite earning his first career start, McSwain's four fouls limited him to 13 minutes.
"I think Matt (Painter) said it after the (first game) that us not having OG (Anunoby) and Collin (Hartman), our foul trouble is different than other people's foul trouble....I appreciate another coach saying something like that," Crean said. "I am happy for him winning a championship."