Is there anything that's capable of bringing a halt to Indiana basketball's losing streak, which reached a program-worst 11 games Wednesday night?
Perhaps. Indiana gets a crack at Northwestern over the weekend in its regular season finale, and most likely again in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament next week. But after suffering an eighth straight double-digit loss Wednesday night, Indiana's only reprieve might just be the end of the season itself.
The Hoosiers got one step closer to that end Wednesday, falling to Purdue 74-55 in front of a sold out crowd of 14,123 at Mackey Arena. The seventh-ranked Boilermakers improved to 25-4 overall and 13-4 in the Big Ten and must win at Penn State this weekend to clinch a share of the Big Ten title with Ohio State and potentially Michigan State.
Indiana, meanwhile, dropped to 9-20 overall and 3-14 in the Big Ten. Tom Crean's team will close the regular season at home Saturday at noon against Northwestern before competing in next week's Big Ten Tournament.
Wednesday's loss followed a similar script to many of the Hoosiers' recent setbacks. Purdue jumped to a 20-8 lead less than seven minutes into the game and Indiana never threatened. Playing a second straight game without Robbie Hummel, Purdue shot 56 percent in the first half, 49 percent overall and turned the ball over only eight times.
Indiana, meanwhile, shot only 39 percent overall and committed 18 turnovers, which led to a slew of transition opportunities for Purdue.
"They're very good," Crean said. "You got to start right out and match their toughness and energy."
The Hoosiers clearly didn't do that. While Purdue was busy making nine of its first 12 shots from the floor, IU committed six of its turnovers in the game's first seven minutes to land itself in a quick double-digit hole.
Purdue also attempted 31 free throws compared to only five for Indiana, which was in foul trouble almost from the outset. Jordan Hulls and Bobby Capobianco both picked up a pair of fouls in the game's opening two minutes, while Derek Elston and Tom Pritchard would both eventually foul out.
With Hummel watching from the sidelines, it came as no surprise that Purdue got big efforts from E'Twaun Moore (21 points, six rebounds) and JaJuan Johnson (14 points, seven rebounds, four blocks). But the biggest surprise was the performance turned in by senior guard Chris Kramer, who made all but one of his eight field goal attempts while scoring 18 points to go along with three rebounds and six assists.
Kramer scored eight of those 18 points during the game's first seven minutes, helping Purdue open a commanding lead early and make sure that Wednesday night's game was nothing like its nail-biting 78-75 win over IU in Bloomington last month. Leading by 13 at half, Purdue would extend the margin to as many as 24 in the second half before settling for the 19-point win.
"We're not as good as them," Crean said. "I think Stevie Wonder, he'd know (that). We're not as good as them. We have a lot of work to do."
If there was a bright spot Wednesday, it was another solid effort from freshman Derek Elston. Elston came off the bench to score 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting while playing a season-high 24 minutes before fouling out. Elston also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, helping IU out-rebound Purdue 36-28.
"We felt he would (play well)," Crean said of Elston's performance, which was his second double-digit outing in his last three games. "When he's confident and he's bouncy and just that effervescent personality that he's got – we needed him to do that. We need him to shoot the ball."
Indiana also got 15 points from Verdell Jones.
Watford 3-11 0-0 7, Capobianco 1-5 0-0 2, Hulls 3-7 0-0 8, Rivers 3-7 0-0 6, Jones 6-15 2-3 15, Barnett 0-0 0-0 0, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Muniru 1-1 0-0 2, Pritchard 1-1 0-0 2, Elston 5-10 2-2 13, Dumes 0-0 0-0 0, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 4-5 55.
Johnson 2-7 10-15 14, Kramer 7-8 3-4 18, Grant 2-6 0-0 5, Jackson 3-4 2-4 9, Moore 8-17 4-4 21, Barlow 1-2 0-2 2, Anthrop 0-0 0-0 0, Byrd 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Wohlford 0-1 0-0 0, Hart 1-3 0-0 3, Bade 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-49 21-31 74.
3-Pointers: Indiana 5-16 (Hulls 2-4, Jones 1-2, Watford 1-2, Elston 1-4, Capobianco 0-3, Moore 0-1), Purdue 5-13 (Kramer 1-1, Jackson 1-2, Hart 1-2, Grant 1-4, Moore 1-4). Rebounds: Indiana 36 (Elston 7), Purdue 28 (Johnson 7). Assists: Indiana 7 (Jones 4), Purdue 16 (Kramer 6). Turnovers: Indiana 18, Purdue 8. Blocks: Indiana 1 (Pritchard), Purdue 6 (Johnson 4, Kramer, Bade). Steals: Indiana 3, Purdue 7. Officials: Ed Hightower, Rick Hartzell, Jim Burr. Attendance: 14,123.
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