The Hoosiers ended their first month of conference play nearly perfectly, dropping just one of the team’s first eight games in the Big Ten this season. But in the final game of the month on Jan. 30, a 97-60 win against in-state rival Purdue in West Lafayette, IU left one major blemish on the stat sheet.
The team had given up a career-high 30 points to freshman A.J. Hammons, the most points it had given up to any player in a single game so far this season.
In just 28 minutes of action, Hammons played an efficient game from the field, shooting 10-of-14 from the floor while nailing 10-of-12 shots from the free throw line. He scored half of Purdue’s points in the Boilermakers’ largest loss in Mackey Arena history.
But after the game, Hammons said he simply wasn’t satisfied in his career night.
“I didn’t play well because we lost,” he said.
IU Coach Tom Crean said after the record-setting win that his team would have to come better prepared to this Saturday’s matchup against the Boilermakers in order to better defend and keep him from having another dominating performance against the Hoosiers.
“We didn’t double tonight,” Crean said Jan. 30. “We could have done a better job in the post. We could have done a better job with the ball pressure. We could have been more active.
“(Hammons) is going to be very good, there’s no doubt about that. We’re going to have to make adjustments in two weeks when we play A.J. Hammons and Purdue, no question.”
Yet since that game against IU, Hammons’ last four conference opponents have been able to better-contain the 7-foot 280-pound Carmel, Ind., native than the Hoosiers
He is currently averaging 13.1 points during Big Ten play as well as 14.3 points per game since his team’s loss to IU.
However, his point total since that loss has steadily decreased each game, from a 19-point effort against Northwestern to just 10 on Wednesday against Illinois.
Yet in games so far this season, when Hammons has played a team for the second time in conference play, twice out of three times he has increased his point production in the second game, scoring eight more points in his second game against Illinois and three more against Penn State.
Crean said after Wednesday night’s victory against Nebraska, it’s more important for his team to be able to win in numerous ways, rather than set records on the offensive or defensive end.
If the Hoosiers allow Hammons another 30-point performance Saturday night, Crean may not be very pleased, but IU will have to make sure the freshman’s performance and confidence doesn’t spread to the rest of his teammates as Purdue attempts to pull an upset Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall.
“The moment you think you’ve got something going is the moment that you’re going to lose it,” Crean said. “Especially in this league, especially in any high-powered league.”