Saturday afternoon — prior to Indiana’s matchup with Purdue — brought about extensive anticipation, excitement and hope for Indiana men’s basketball as a whole.
The team was coming into a rivalry game in desperate need of a win not only against their rival, but for the outlook of the season. After a week off, the team was well rested and had special motivation on hand.
Legendary Indiana head coach Bob Knight made his first trip to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall since his firing in 2000.
“The inclusion of coach Knight meant a lot to those guys,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “And for us to be able to host them (the 1980 team) and have coach Knight officially come through the doors was a big thing.”
The three-time national champion and all-time wins leader in school history was honored at halftime along with the 1980 Indiana team and spoke to the current team before the game.
There had been speculation on Friday night of Knight making his return, and he was previously expected to return earlier in the season. The entire fanbase was buying into the anticipation.
Students lined up to get into the game in the wee hours of the early morning, extensive security was on hand, and so were esteemed alumni Mark Cuban and Sage Steele, among many others.
All of the energy in the building on a historic day disappeared after the final buzzer, as Indiana got beat handedly on its home floor by Purdue, 74-62, for the Hoosiers’ fourth consecutive loss.
“Obviously, very disappointed in our performance today,” Miller said.
The Boilermakers have made it habit to get the best of Indiana in recent years. Purdue has won nine of the past 10 meetings in the series and has not lost a game to Indiana since 2016.
What started as a potentially uplifting day for the season and the program ended up with a difficult loss overshadowing Indiana’s season.
Not too long ago, Indiana beat No. 16 Michigan State on Jan. 23, was 15-4 and considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Four games and four losses later, Indiana is 15-8 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten, and the narrative has changed as now — Indiana’s tournament chances are nowhere close to guaranteed.
There is plenty of season left for Indiana to change that, but the shortcomings against Purdue were indicative of problems throughout the entire season and will continue to plague the team shall they continue.
Lack of toughness and rebounding, as well as plenty of turnovers, all played major roles in hurting Indiana in Saturday’s game.
Indiana committed 14 turnovers on the day with 10 of them coming in the first half and resulting in 17 Purdue points. Indiana also was 10 below its rebounding average for the season, taking away one of its biggest strengths as a team.
“We’re not rebounding at all right now,” Miller said. “Offensive rebounding is nonexistent. At one point it was a strength of ours. Right now, it’s not.”
Purdue did not severely outperform the Hoosiers with rebounding or ball security, only out-rebounding them by one (29-28) and committing 12 of its own turnovers. But the Boilers did earn it on the offensive end and prevented Indiana from doing such.
The Boilermakers hit shots when they needed to, shooting 48 percent on the day from the field and was 8-for-16 from 3-point range — neither of those IU could replicate.
Scoring droughts and lack of offensive direction got the best of the Hoosiers yet again, showcasing Purdue’s defensive prowess. Turning in 62 points was 10 below the Hoosiers’ season average, and that came in large part due to two extended time frames where Indiana could not score the ball.
“Our turnovers in the first half really killed momentum,” Miller said. “And their run at the end of the half was really a deflating deal.”
Indiana got off to a solid start in the game, battling with Purdue and leading 28-25 with 3:47 to go in the first half. Then, Purdue finished the half on a 12-0 run to reverse momentum going into the second.
After the break and the honoring of Knight, Indiana seemed to handle some adversity well, and weather the storm a bit, making it a six-point game, 56-50 with 9:03 left.
The wheels blew off, Indiana suffered a 9-0 run, found itself down 15 (65-50), and did not score another basket for over five minutes. The game was decided and effectively over in that drought.
“This was last Saturday in Columbus…all over again.”
Whether it be turnovers, mental lapses, or an inability to keep up with the Boilers’ physicality, Indiana continues to play with fire. #iubb@ConnorHines17 on why it happened the way it did: pic.twitter.com/Q37NHhPdAK
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 9, 2020
Scoring lapses like the ones seen on Saturday aren’t going to win anyone games in the Big Ten, let alone a rivalry game with as much on the line for both teams as this one.
Indiana got solid offensive production from Trayce Jackson-Davis, Justin Smith and Jerome Hunter, having 16, 11, and 10 respectively.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much performance there.
Joey Brunk, a key cog in the rotation, had eight points, but did not have the usual impact he does.
Along with him, key contributors and team captains Devonte Green and Al Durham struggled immensely. Both players average about 10 points per game, but Saturday’s game was not reflective of that.
Green had three points on 1-for-7 shooting, and Durham finished with five points while shooting 2-for-6 from the field. Per usual, the backcourt as a whole struggled. The four scholarship guards combined for 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
As daunting of a place as IU is in right now, with four straight losses, Indiana has time to fix it, though time is running out.
There are big issues, but nothing that can’t be overcome. It will take a lot of work and a lot of urgency, but to Miller and the rest of the team, it’s about moving on and focusing on what’s ahead of them, as that is all that they can control.
“It’s not about the doom and gloom,” Miller said. “Yeah, it stinks and you’re really disappointed and it makes you sick, but the doom and the gloom’s got to go away as soon as possible because the next one is coming right down the line.”