BLOOMINGTON-The national spotlight might not be on Assembly Hall Saturday when Purdue limps into Assembly Hall sporting a 7-9 record, but the entire state's focus most certainly will.
While Indiana has hopes of competing for a conference championship, there are no such visions of grandeur for the Boilermakers. After all, this is a team that has lost three projected starters to knee injuries, lost another to a season-long suspension, and has lost to the likes of Evansville, Loyola (Ill.), Northwestern and Penn State in the early going.
That said, it's still huge game to just about everyone in the Hoosier state, most of which are either Indiana fans or Purdue fans, but never both.
"It's huge – it's the North Carolina vs. Duke of Indiana," says A.J. Ratliff.
Generally speaking, the Indiana-Purdue game is still considered one of college basketball's most intense rivalries. But the fact that both Indiana and Purdue haven't been among the nation's elite in recent years has drawn some of the national attention away. In addition, Saturday's match-up will mark the first time in 35 years that coaching icons Bob Knight and/or Gene Keady won't be storming the sidelines.
Despite those changes, it's still a game that means a great deal to the Indianapolis native Ratliff, one that he knows Purdue will be worked up for as well.
"This is in-state bragging rights," said Ratliff. "If they beat us, that's their championship, but beat Indiana.
"You won't have the whoopin' and hollerin' with Gene Keady, but their defense is still going to be the same. Purdue bumps up their intensity for this game. It's not just another game."
IU Coach Mike Davis, who owns a 7-2 record against Purdue, also expects a much different sort of effort from Purdue than their 7-9 record might suggest.
"They are going to play hard," said Davis. "They are going to do the same thing Illinois did defensively. We have to make sure we come out and play with a lot of intensity."
While homegrown players like Ratliff, Sean Kline, Robert Vaden and Errek Suhr, are familiar with the intensity of this battle, it will be something new for players like Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway among others.
"I don't think that some of the guys on this team really understand what it is," said Ratliff. "They think Indiana and Kentucky is a big rivalry, but they haven't seen Purdue and Indiana."
Calloway was one of those players who told Ratliff he had his doubts that Saturday's game could be any bigger than the one Indiana played against Kentucky last month in the RCA Dome.
"He was like, ‘It can't be bigger than Indiana and Kentucky,'" said Ratliff. "I was like, ‘it's way bigger.'"
News and Notes:
- Marco Killingsworth and Rod Wilmont, who have been battling injuries from the Illinois game, were both sidelined for practice Thursday. Killingsworth is considered probable for the Purdue game, while Wilmont's status is listed as a gametime decision.
Wilmont hurt his right ankle in the second half of the Illinois game, a contest that he contributed 17 points and nine rebounds to the Hoosiers' cause.
Ratliff, though, expects both to be ready by the weekend.
"They'll be there," said Ratliff.
- Mike Davis on his favorite memories of the Indiana-Purdue rivalry… "When we win."
- Cem Dinc has been sidelined with a shoulder injury for two weeks. Davis said after practice that the team is hopeful to have him back in another 2-3 weeks.
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