WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Just three seconds were left on the clock, players standing around, minds already off the game. Indiana’s Rob Phinisee put up and missed a garbage time 3-pointer as time expired to a very familiar scene.
Purdue had once again outplayed Indiana, start to finish, as the Boilermakers beat the Hoosiers for the ninth consecutive time.
Indiana’s 67-58 loss on Saturday in West Lafayette keeps the Hoosiers winless against Purdue since 2016. It hasn’t beaten Purdue in Mackey Arena since 2013, as well.
The loss represented how dominant Purdue has been over Indiana in the past few years, but also how far Indiana has slipped in the past few weeks.
Big Ten play is always a gauntlet, but two weeks ago, Indiana was in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament and finish the season strong entering a home game against Michigan State.
Indiana was 12-9 prior to that Feb. 20 game. From that point, it has lost five games in a row to finish the regular season at 12-14 and 7-12 in the Big Ten.
“I really just think it’s the caliber of the Big Ten,” Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis said on the team’s drop-off from its non-conference play. “When you get into Big Ten… you have all these coaches that already know the way you play, it’s much harder to run your sets on offense.”
The late-season collapse is indicative of how Indiana’s season expectations have fallen far off track. This year was expected to be a big jump for the program, the step forward in the Archie Miller era.
Establishing consistency, a winning Big Ten record, beating Purdue at least once, and the most important of all — making the NCAA Tournament — were expected to be very reasonable goals with the level of the talent the roster possesses.
The only one of the goals that has a possibility of still occurring is the NCAA Tournament appearance. The odds are extremely low, as an at-large bid is almost certainly out of the question. The only chance the Hoosiers have to make the big dance for the first time since 2016 is likely a deep run into the Big Ten Tournament.
For Saturday’s contest, it was a small window into how Indiana has typically lost its games — a strong defensive effort was present, but there wasn’t enough offense to be competitive.
The Hoosiers did a good job of keeping Purdue contained. IU held the Boilers just under their season average for points scored and Purdue only shot 28.6% from the 3-point line.
Purdue’s leading scorer and best player, Trevion Williams, was held to six points and only got four field goal attempts all game too.
Offensively, Indiana was a far different story in comparison to its defensive prowess.
Indiana got good balance from its starters as four of them scored 10 points or more, but the whole team missed a plethora of open looks. The team shot 38.5% from the field and was 5-for-23 (21.7%) from the 3-point line.
“We’re just struggling shooting the ball… all in all in our last two games… we’re not shooting the ball well from the perimeter and you’re not going to be able to win in this league without shooting the ball a little bit,” Miller said.
The first half was particularly bad as Indiana only scored 20 points in 20 minutes.
The second half wasn’t much better for the majority of it. Indiana’s 11 garbage-time points, a near fifth of the total scoring output, in the last three minutes of the game made the situation seem better than it really was in the latter period.
With the Big Ten Tournament looming next week, Indiana is going to need to improve its offensive efficiency and shot making to compete and advance.
Indiana will be the No. 10 seed in the conference tournament and will the face No. 7 seed in either Maryland or Rutgers on Thursday night. The Hoosiers beat Maryland in January and have lost to Rutgers twice this year.
Regardless of previous results, Indiana needs a fresh mindset and clean slate in its attack and mentality of how it plans to finish its season if the team wants to go on a run in Indianapolis.
“It’s been a rough five games… but going into the Big Ten Tournament we just got to reset our batteries,” Jackson-Davis said. “I know a lot of my teammates are angry right now but we just got to put the past behind us.”