No. 5 Purdue has lost three of its past five games. This downward spiral began with a 79-74 loss at Indiana on Feb. 4. Since then, the Boilermakers lost two other road games to Northwestern and Maryland.
The 17th-ranked Hoosiers haven’t impressed much either in that stretch. Indiana is 3-2 since beating Purdue, including an 80-65 loss at Michigan State on Tuesday.
On Saturday, the storied rivals meet again. Here are three things to Xs and Os decisions that affected these teams' first meeting and could come into play again in West Lafayette on Saturday.
Indiana’s pick-and-roll offense
The story of these teams’ first meeting could be told by IU’s pick-and-roll game. There was a chess match all game between these teams that ended up deciding the game.
As I mentioned in my initial Purdue preview, Purdue center Zach Edey usually plays a deep drop coverage when involved in ball screens. Edey sinks deep into the paint while Purdue’s point-of-attack defenders fight over ball screens. Due to the threat of the 7-foot-4 giant inside, teams settle for inefficient mid-range jump shots against the Boilermakers.
Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis exposed the drop coverage throughout the first half on Feb. 4. Hood-Schifino fancies those mid-range jumpers that Purdue baits guards into. This forced Edey to play a step (or two) higher in his drop, and the Hoosiers feasted against this coverage.
In the second half, Purdue took Edey off Jackson-Davis, having him guard the other forward on the court for IU.
The Boilermakers’ other forwards hedge ball screens rather than dropping. By sending aggressive hedges at Hood-Schifino, Purdue silenced Indiana’s two-man game between its best players. Caleb Furst and Mason Gillis stopped Hood-Schifino from turning the corner which altered Indiana’s offense.
The modification of guarding Jackson-Davis with someone other than Edey contributed to Indiana only scoring 29 second-half points. But late in the half, as Purdue drew within three points, the Hoosiers made an adjustment of their own.
After a timeout, IU set up a pick-and-roll with Hood-Schifino. This time, Race Thompson was the screener. Edey was defending Thompson, and although Jackson-Davis is a better scoring threat, the Hoosiers wanted Edey back in the action. Hood-Schifino got straight to his pull-up and nailed a jumper. Indiana put Edey in the action again in the final minute, and Hood-Schifino took it to the rack and scored over Edey.
Indiana’s offense is largely dependent on its pick-and-roll game. The Hoosiers won’t shy away from running ball screens on Saturday. The most intriguing story in Saturday’s game will be how Purdue’s frontcourt chooses to match up with IU’s.
Will Purdue put Edey on Jackson-Davis? Can Indiana score against Purdue’s hedges? Is it worth it to repeatedly use Thompson in pick-and-rolls to attack Edey’s drop?
These are all questions that could arise in Saturday’s rematch, and the adjustments made by both teams will be fascinating.
Edey dominated the game on Feb. 4. Purdue’s star dropped 33 points while shooting 15-for-19 against the Hoosiers.
The rest of the Boilermakers had 41 points and shot 14-for-38.
Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, Purdue’s second and third leading scorers, combined to score 16 points on 5-for-20 shooting against the Hoosiers. This has become a theme of late for the Boilermakers.
In Purdue’s 24 wins, Smith and Loyer average 22.5 points while shooting 42.7% on field goals and 37.6% on 3s. In Purdue’s four losses, the duo is averaging 17.3 points while shooting 31.7% on field goals and 24% on 3s.
Indiana forced Purdue’s backcourt pairing to drive inside in the earlier showdown. Instead of letting the Boilermakers’ backcourt pairing shoot 3s, the Hoosiers directed them inside the 3-point arc.
The Hoosiers didn’t double-team Edey often. Instead, IU let Edey go to work while limiting opening looks for his teammates. I’d expect the same approach for most of Saturday’s game.
Loyer is averaging 8.0 points per game and shooting just 31.6% in his past six games. The freshman began the year at a blazing pace, but his decline has led to the Boilermakers losing three of those six games.
If Loyer, Smith and Purdue’s other role players fail to produce, Indiana will have another chance to beat Purdue. I doubt the Hoosiers send frequent doubles at Edey, meaning it will be up to someone else to create shots without Edey’s gravity.
Indiana’s “zoom” action
Despite allowing under a point per possession in Big Ten play, one specific play has caused fits for Purdue.
“Zoom” (sometimes called Chicago) is one of the most popular plays in basketball. It starts with a big man holding the ball up top. The big man turns to a corner, where a guard flies off a pindown. After the pindown, the guard receives the ball from the big man, who rolls as the pindown setter pops for a jump shot.
This play is trendy because it’s challenging to stop. Defending guards have to maneuver two screens (and officials rarely call moving screens on this action). Purdue’s perimeter defenders often get beat on these screens, leading to efficient shots.
Indiana spammed zoom in the first half against Purdue on Feb. 4, and the Boilermakers couldn’t stop it.
The Hoosiers aren’t the only team to hurt Purdue with zoom. On Feb. 12, Northwestern beat Purdue by continuously using zoom.
Indiana will surely call this play multiple times in Mackey Arena on Saturday. Purdue’s perimeter players need to navigate screens better to slow it down. Or, Purdue could attempt to switch the initial pindown, meaning the Boilermakers would only need to thrust through one screen instead of two.
No matter what, expect to see IU explore this action until Purdue proves it can counter it effectively.
Saturday’s game will be another intense environment between these two squads. Both coaching staffs need to adjust to win the second battle this season.
Not only does Purdue have home-court advantage, but it also hasn’t played since beating Ohio State Sunday. The Boilermakers will be well-rested and are 7.5-point favorites.
If Indiana makes the necessary plays, this could be another tight finish. But if Purdue defends well and gets production from its role players, it could cruise to a victory.
It’s officially rematch season in college basketball, and on Saturday we’ll get a rematch full of adjustments between two storied rivals.