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IU to face tough challenge in rivalry game against Purdue



23Purdue

Then-junior, now senior, forward Freddie McSwain Jr. swats away a Purdue shot. The Hoosiers lost to the Boilermakers, 69-64, on Feb. 9, 2017. Victor Grössling Buy Photos

In the midst of a stretch of seven games in 17 days, IU will face its toughest foe of the season Sunday afternoon when Purdue travels to Bloomington to renew the teams' historic rivalry. 

The matchup against Purdue will be IU’s most challenging game since facing Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. As of Wednesday, Purdue has not lost in the Big Ten and is one of the hottest teams in the nation. 

Since losing two games in the Battle for Atlantis in November, the Boilermakers have not lost a single game and are ranked No. 3 in the AP poll. During their 15-game winning streak, only four of their victories have been within single digits. Purdue hasn’t just been winning games, but dominating its opponents. 

If Purdue defeats Michigan on Thursday, the Boilermakers will tie a program high in consecutive games won, at 15, and will come in to Bloomington looking to take sole possession of that record. 

Last season, Purdue won the Big Ten Conference title and made it to the Sweet 16 before falling to Kansas 98-66. With Caleb Swanigan departing early for the NBA, it was expected that Purdue would take a step back this season. After a hiccup in the Bahamas, the Boilermakers are better than they were last season. 

Even though Purdue lost Swanigan, the Boilermakers brought back nearly every other player from that Big Ten champion team, including four senior starters. 

Led by the duo of Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards, Purdue has the fourth-most efficient offense in the nation, per Kenpom.com. The Boilermakers’ three-point percentage of 43.7 is the highest in the country as Purdue is the best shooting team in the Big Ten. In a victory over Iowa, Purdue hit 20 three-pointers.

Senior guard PJ Thompson has the highest three-point percentage on the team at 51.2 percent, which is 10th-best in college basketball. Thompson’s true-shooting percentage of 72 percent is the best in the country. 

Sophomore guard Vincent Edwards has a three-point percentage of 45.2 percent, which is 76th in the nation, and senior guard Dakota Mathias' three-point percentage of 45.8 percent is 83rd. 

Purdue’s defense is even better than its offense. The unit is the third-best in college basketball, per Kenpom.com, and has the 18th-best block percentage in the nation. Its defense is anchored by senior forward Isaac Haas and freshman forward Matt Haarms. Haarms has the sixth-best block percentage at 15.4, and Haas has a block percentage of 6. 

Opponents currently have an effective field-goal percentage of 43.3, which is the fifth lowest in the nation. IU’s offense will be up against one of the best defenses it has faced all season long. 

IU has played well in recent weeks, but it hasn’t beaten an opponent of Purdue’s quality all season long. In the Hoosiers’ last game against a team like the Boilermakers, IU got blown out at Michigan State. On both ends of the court, IU will face a significant test and will need a complete effort to knock off the Big Ten title favorite. 

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