Indiana men’s basketball lost to No. 8 Purdue 69-67 Saturday afternoon at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Hoosiers won the first meeting at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, but Purdue exacted its revenge to all but kill its in-state rivals’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
Indiana fell to 18-12 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten this season with the loss, and its NCAA Tournament hopes now rest on its performance in the conference tournament from March 9 to 13. ESPN’s most recent bracketology predictions put Indiana as the first team out of March Madness, and the team will likely need at least two wins in the conference tournament to be safely in the field.
“I’m pleased with the way we competed,” head coach Mike Woodson said at Saturday’s postgame press conference. “We gave ourselves an opportunity to win a game in a hostile situation. It’s a tough building to win in, and we were very competitive.”
The defining play of the game and the Hoosiers’ season came with 12 seconds left. Senior forward Miller Kopp threw an inbound pass intended for junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had carved out space in the post while the Hoosiers were down 67-65, but the ball was tipped and secured by Purdue senior forward Trevion Williams.
Indiana fouled Williams and sent him to the free-throw line, where he sank both free throws, scoring Purdue’s 68th and 69th points to ultimately put the game out of reach. Kopp finished with 14 points on 4-6 shooting from 3-point range, but what was his third turnover of the game proved to be one mistake too many for Indiana to overcome.
The pass was a tight fit, but Kopp didn’t have any other options. Woodson called Indiana’s final timeout with 4:57 left to play to get senior guard Xavier Johnson back into the game, and a five-second violation would have given the ball back to Purdue.
“I saw an opening (and) tried to squeeze it in there, but it didn’t get through,” Kopp said. “I probably should have thrown it a half-second earlier. I knew we had to get the ball in. We didn’t have any timeouts, so I had to try to make a play.”
Kopp finished with his highest point total since Nov. 30, 2021, and was just 4 points off Johnson’s team-high 18. Kopp, Johnson and Jackson-Davis each scored in double-digits in the second half alone, and Johnson added nine of his season-high 12 assists after the halftime break.
Johnson scored or assisted on 31 of Indiana’s 38 second-half points. He had the ball in his hand on the final possession of the game after Williams missed two free throws. Jackson-Davis caught the defensive rebound and gave it straight to Johnson, who sprinted down the court and tossed a shot from near the half court line, which went far left and missed the basket completely.
Johnson said he thought the defender was pulling on his jersey and that would be enough to draw a foul, but the referees didn’t give him the call as Indiana’s tournament hopes sailed out of bounds with his airball.
“He just started holding me,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t trying to draw (a foul). I was trying to get to the basket.”
Despite the Hoosiers’ tough odds of making a run in the conference tournament next week, Kopp said the team is going into it hungry and confident it can beat any team in the country, despite its recent struggles.
Indiana, which moved to 14-4 after its Jan. 20 win against Purdue, lost eight of its last 12 games as it was marred by injuries and suspended five players for one of its most winnable games against Northwestern on Feb. 8.
“Our record doesn’t show our identity as a team,” Johnson said. “We know that we’re a good team, and we’re going to bring it in the postseason.”
Indiana is locked into the No. 9 seed for the Big Ten Tournament and will play either Michigan or Michigan State in the second round at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Indiana lost to both Michigan and Michigan State in the regular season by 18 points and 15 points, respectively.