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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

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IU aims to sweep Purdue

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Wednesday evening’s 76-47 shellacking of Nebraska in Assembly Hall was IU’s second most lopsided victory of this Big Ten season.

Topping the list, of course, was IU’s Jan. 30 evisceration of Purdue in West Lafayette. True to a team mantra, defense created offense as the 97-60 IU win propelled the Hoosiers into their showdown with then-No. 1 Michigan and earning the No. 1 ranking themselves several days later.

“That’s what you should lean on to start with, regardless of if your offense is going or not,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. “It’s funny because there is a direct correlation between when we’re playing well on defense and how well we’re playing on offense.”

With Saturday’s rematch against Purdue at home, the momentum would seem to favor the Hoosiers even more, particularly considering each team’s last time out. While IU romped against Nebraska, Purdue never led after the opening minutes against suddenly streaking Illinois. The Boilermakers lost Wednesday by 20 points.

However, IU Coach Tom Crean warned against overconfidence, even with such circumstances.

“Momentum is up for grabs every game, throughout the game,” Crean said. “In the second half, it’s all over again. You want to feel like you’re really getting better, but I think the moment you start to feel like you’ve really got something going is the moment you’re going to lose it, especially in this league, especially in any high-powered league.”

Purdue center A.J. Hammons had a career night despite his team’s blowout loss against the Hoosiers, scoring 30 points to start a recent run of strong play. At 7-feet and 280 pounds, the hulking freshman is at home in a slower pace.

Such tempos have troubled IU at times this season, especially in losses to Wisconsin and Butler, but Nebraska’s attempts to slacken Wednesday’s game ultimately did not work.

“To get where we want to get, we know that we have to be able to play multiple styles of basketball,” senior forward Christian Watford said. “We have to be able to win a slow game, and definitely win a game at our pace.”

Aside from Hammons, Purdue shot just 12-of-41 in the first matchup against the Hoosiers, as freshman guard Ronnie Johnson was the only other Boilermaker to reach double figures. Leading scorer, junior guard Terone Johnson, was held to a mere four points, nine below his average.

Purdue’s only win since that contest was a 9-point win against conference bottom-feeder Penn State. Otherwise, they’ve suffered a string of lopsided losses, none by fewer than 13 points.

IU, by contrast, has ascended to the top of the national rankings, keeping the top spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll despite a buzzer-beater loss to Illinois. Watford has found his shooting stroke from outside, and IU’s last six wins have come by eight or more points.

As erratic as Crean said it can be, the Hoosiers appear to have the momentum heading into the rematch.

“You can feel when it’s up for grabs,” Crean said. “You can feel when you’re getting it. You can feel when you’re losing it. I wish it was something you could carry over, but I don’t think it is.”

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