WEST LAYAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana’s 2016-17 basketball season has been slipping away, the Hoosiers well into the second tier of the Big Ten.
Among the moments that often happen in situations like this are the unknowns getting some playing time.
Whatever the end result is, seldom-used forward Tim Priller is seeing some actual minutes, playing a helpful segment in IU’s 86-75 loss at Purdue.
In coach Tom Crean’s eyes, it’s a symbol of players continuing to battle even though IU has fallen to 16-14 overall and 6-11 in the Big Ten.
The 6-foot-9 forward from Texas played two minutes total in IU’s first 16 Big Ten games.
He played five on Tuesday in Mackey Arena, scoring a career-high six points. He drew a foul on Purdue star Caleb Swanigan, and his jumper with 10:09 to play brought IU within 57-51.
Priller set nice screens and ran an pick-and-roll very well.
“Tim Priller is getting better. He really is,” Crean said. “He’s got a nice touch. He works extremely hard. He puts the same time in that other people do.
“He doesn’t get the same opportunity because they’re better, but he works at it. He was ready when his name was called and I’m proud of him for that.”
It’s a footnote to everything that is happening with IU’s season — eight losses the past 10 games, only a Hail Mary left for an NCAA Tournament berth, a second-tier Big Ten finish and boiling fan frustration — but it is a moment for the junior.
All seven of Priller’s minutes in Big Ten play have come in IU’s past two games.
“It’s a great opportunity. I’m glad I could,” Priller said. “Every time, if I go out there, I’m going to try as hard as I can for my teammates.”
The Hoosiers finish the regular season at Ohio State at noon on Saturday. The Big Ten Tournament runs March 8-12 in Washington, D.C., and IU currently sits 12th in the 14-team Big Ten.
Indiana needed every possible big body at Purdue.
Starting center Thomas Bryant and backup center De’Ron Davis both fouled out, and Priller and junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain, who got his first Big Ten start, both ended up with four fouls.
Crean praised his players resiliency in the face of a very difficult season.
“I love the fact that they care. They’re working extremely hard. We’ve got some guys that are getting a lot better without a doubt,” Crean said.
“They want to learn. Those are all qualities you really want in somebody.
“I can’t not tell you how bad it hurts as a human being, as a leader of them, for them not to get the results a lot of time for the work they put in.”