The last time IU men’s basketball beat Purdue, Zayn's “Pillowtalk” was the Billboard No. 1 song. Tom Crean was still IU’s head coach. Barack Obama was still the president of the United States.
The Hoosiers play the Boilermakers at 2 p.m. Saturday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Purdue has beaten IU five straight times. IU’s last win was Feb. 20, 2016. Purdue has won eight of the last nine meetings dating back to February 2014, and not a single player on IU’s roster has ever defeated Purdue.
Couple that with the losing streak IU is currently in this season, which adds importance to this game for the big picture beyond the rivalry itself. After upsetting then-No. 11 Michigan State in Assembly Hall on Jan. 23, IU has lost three straight games. IU collapsed late against Maryland before scoring a combined 108 points against Penn State and Ohio State.
A season that began with promise and a team that initially looked largely improved from the year prior has started to spiral. IU is still safely in projections for the NCAA Tournament, but as the losses begin to accumulate, IU’s seeding has dropped and approached the bubble.
So head coach Archie Miller knows this game is more important than the rest. Among a number of goals he’s yet to accomplish at IU, Miller hasn’t beaten Purdue.
The Hoosiers will be at home this weekend, where they have been far better comapred to their road games over the course of the season. IU hasn’t had the same offensives woes that led to losses to Penn State and Ohio State within the confines of the familiar Assembly Hall walls. It’s the building where IU has seen its best performances, including wins over Florida State University and Michigan State.
After its loss to Ohio State, Miller said his team hit a pothole. The interior play IU has relied on all season wasn’t there in Columbus, Ohio. But after playing four games in 10 days, capped off with the Feb. 1 loss at Ohio State, IU has had a week off.
“We have some time here to regroup, which we need to,” Miller said after the loss to Ohio State. “When we play Purdue, that’s when it matters.”
The week off comes at an opportune time for freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and redshirt junior center Joey Brunk to get a break before the final stretch of the season. In the midst of the biggest difficulties IU has had this season, Miller talked about looking to his stars. Now rested, those are the players IU will rely on to break out of the losing streak and get back to the team that upset Michigan State two weeks ago.
“You find your tough guys, you find your togetherness,” Miller said. “You have to find a way to break through in the moment of truth. For us, as we get back, our next opportunity is Purdue at home. Nothing is going to mean more than that day.”
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