Even before Indiana’s eventual 74-67 defeat at the hands of No. 3 Purdue Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall, IU head coach Archie Miller knew the dilemma he would face.
A ‘pick your poison’ of sorts, as the conundrum goes. Focus your defensive attention on 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas, or stay disciplined on the perimeter against the nation’s best 3-point shooting team.
With intermittent effectiveness, those available methods were chosen interchangeably Sunday against the Boilermakers. but one constant remained: Haas, who scored a career-high 26 points to pace Purdue (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten).
“We just knew that if we could just wall up between him and the basket and try to get as many as we can rebounded, and then we just tightened up as far as everywhere else,” Morgan said. “That’s what we tried to do.
Indiana (12-10, 5-5) benefited from an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance from Purdue, who only connected on 5-of-18 3-pointers — including an 0-of-6 start to jumpstart IU’s momentum in the first half. But life was made difficult for Purdue’s sharpshooters of Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and others. Vincent Edwards, a 48 percent 3-point shooter, finished 0-of-6.
“From a three-point perspective,” Miller said. “They had been shooting the ball at an unbelievable level that at some level you would hope the numbers would come back. They missed some good ones. But I thought for the most part our guys did a good job of being on shooters and challenging shots when we could.
But an outmatched Juwan Morgan (6-foot-8), Justin Smith (6-foot-7), or Freddie McSwain (6-foot-6) — struggled mightily to keep Haas (7-foot-2) in between them and the basket. Purdue’s senior center shot 10-of-17, converting all six of his free throws in the process. The Hoosiers double-teamed Haas at times to no avail, succumbing to open 3-point looks from Purdue’s backcourt.
Indiana did their best to try and stop 7-foot-2 Purdue big man Isaac Haas today. But the undersized Hoosiers couldn't contain him down low as he finished with 26 points in the 74-67 loss. #iubb pic.twitter.com/RLNlIBfykk
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 29, 2018
In other instances, Haas completely blew past whoever the Hoosiers put against him. Consistent entry passes from Purdue’s backcourt allowed Haas to turn, or spin, and find himself a point-blank opportunity.
“At times, we had to stay in between him and the basket and make him earn tough baskets at times when we trapped,” Miller said. “But when we post trapped tonight, it really cost us. I mean it really cost us. Our perimeter guys were completely non-existent on post traps. I think they scored probably nine points on us.”
For how undersized Indiana was against its in-state rival, Haas’ 26 points almost seemed low — given how impressive the Hoosiers were at altering Purdue’s offense. Against Iowa, Haas took only one shot in 18 minutes — but the Boilermakers made 20 3-pointers to set the Big Ten record. Against the Hoosiers, it was made the other way around.
“I think it’s a decision you have to make,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “They had McSwain on him some and tried to mix guys up. The number one thing they want to do is keep Morgan in the game, but I thought he did a really good job. You’re giving up five or six inches and you can’t let him get deep.”
For the most part, Miller and the Hoosiers felt postgame that IU gave Purdue all it could handle. There is certainly not any moral victories coming from the first-year head coach, but Indiana played Purdue’s “Catch-22” as well as any this season. As Miller said Friday before facing the Boilermakers, there’s a reason Purdue has won ten straight to open the Big Ten season.
“They’re Purdue,” Miller said Saturday. ”They play tough-minded basketball. You have both ends of the floor you’re worried about.”