The reason conferences were made in sports were to separate the multitude of teams, placing the ones that are relatively close to one another into a specific conference or division.
In those conferences or divisions, storied rivalries were created. There’s Bears versus Packers, Red Sox versus Yankees, and Duke versus North Carolina, just to name a few. Then, of course, there's IU versus Purdue.
It’s common for teams to play conference opponents at most twice a season. However, if a postseason run for both teams includes paths to play one another, there could be a third matchup.
That’s the case for IU women’s basketball as it looks to play rival Purdue for a third time this season in the third round of the WNIT on Thursday.
Despite the excitement surrounding a postseason contest with their conference rival, IU Coach Teri Moren had little to say on the fact their opponent is Purdue.
“It happens to be the next game of the journey we are on right now,” Moren said. “It’s a six-game series, and we are just taking it a game at a time. It just so happens the next game is Purdue.”
The six-game series Moren refers to is the amount of games it will take to win the WNIT. The Hoosiers have won two so far, beating both UT-Martin and Milwaukee by double-digits in the first two rounds.
The Boilermakers have come away with two slim victories against other in-state schools in IUPUI and Ball State.
In the regular season, IU beat Purdue in both games. Despite similar results, the games were much different.
On Jan. 6 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, IU cruised to a 72-54 victory. It was a blowout from the start, as the Hoosiers led 18-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Moren called it one of her team’s most complete games, as four of the five starters scored in double figures, and all players provided good minutes. IU shot 58.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three while holding Purdue to 34 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three.
The second time the two met was in Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Unlike the first game, IU couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter and trailed 13-4 heading into the second quarter. The Hoosiers picked things up in the second quarter, outscoring Purdue 18-9 and tying the game at the half.
It was a slow and grind-it-out game as both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and from three, but in the end the Hoosiers tightened up the defense and knocked down shots when they needed to, securing a 52-44 win.
“It can be difficult to play a team three times in one season,” freshman guard Jaelynn Penn said. “We are coming in with the same mindset we had the last two games.”
Despite the success in the first two meetings, IU knows Purdue poses a problem with its forwards, sophomore Ae’Rianna Harris and junior Nora Kiesler. Harris stands at 6-foot-1 and is one of the more athletic players in the conference, while Kiesler stands at a towering 6-foot-6, four inches taller than anyone on the IU roster.
Harris won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and in the last game against IU, she had eight points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
“She’s a tremendous shot blocker,” Moren said on Harris. “She’s probably one of the best athletes in the league, and she’s really good on the low block. She poses a real problem.”
That's a problem Moren said her team has done a decent job on throughout the first two games. Another defensive bright spot IU has managed in the meetings against Purdue is containing their best player, sophomore guard Dominique Oden, who averaged 15.5 points per game in conference play.
Due to the defense of Penn, Oden was held in check to four points and nine points in both games.
“We know that Oden is a really good shooter, so we try to not let her have open looks,” Penn said. “Going through our scouts and taking away her tendencies.”
IU has played all its postseason games at home this season and this one will be no different. The Hoosiers have won 11 of their last 13 games, with seven coming in the confines of Assembly Hall.
Both Moren and Penn said they are happy to still be playing at this time of year and that Purdue is nothing but step three in a six-step mission.
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