Three weeks ago, after then-No. 21 Indiana men’s basketball defeated then-No. 1 Purdue 79-74 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, I argued that there is no better feeling as a fan than watching your team beat its rival.
However — and I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out — what if you got to watch your team beat its rival twice in the same month?
No. 17 Indiana defeated No. 5 Purdue 79-71 on Saturday night, completing the Hoosiers’ first season sweep of the Boilermakers in 10 years. Indiana ripped off a 19-3 scoring run early in the second half and never trailed again, sealing what might be head coach Mike Woodson’s best win to date.
Like most of their road games this season, the Hoosiers got most of their production from one player — just not the one you’d expect.
Game after game, we’ve seen senior forward Jackson-Davis do everything for Indiana while his teammates fluctuated from great to underwhelming to virtually unplayable. He scored only 10 points Saturday night, his first coming with 11:44 left in the second half.
Meanwhile, freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino — who often checks the boxes of great, underwhelming and virtually unplayable in a single game — was everything Indiana fans have hoped for and then some. He scored a career-high 35 points while shooting 58% from the field and committing just three turnovers.
Hood-Schifino has been the epitome of hot and cold this season; Saturday night he was scorching. Every time he pulled up for a midrange jumper, it felt like his NBA draft stock crept up a notch.
While Hood-Schifino was the Hoosiers’ undisputed star, graduate forward Miller Kopp and junior guard Trey Galloway logged 13 points apiece and played commendable defense. Hood-Schifino, Kopp and Galloway were Indiana’s only scorers in the first half and accounted for all seven of the Hoosiers’ 3-pointers.
That’s super impressive for the sharpshooting trio, but I imagine it was deeply concerning for Indiana fans. Adding to the suspense was the steady influx of 23 personal fouls the Hoosiers accumulated.
I know Indiana fans will claim the referees were secretly bribed to handicap the Hoosiers, but have we considered the possibility that Indiana commits a lot of fouls? All season long the Hoosiers have prided themselves on physicality, but that’s a double-edged sword. Throw in a pair of enormous Boilermakers who can only be slowed down with prayers and horse tranquilizer, and the fouls are going to add up rather quickly.
The Boilermakers shot 33 free throws and converted 22. Purdue 7-foot-4 junior center Zach Edey went to the line seven times, going 10-of-14. Four Hoosiers had three fouls with 11:55 remaining in the game.
Even when Indiana held a double-digit lead with seven minutes remaining, it felt like only a matter of time before Purdue came storming back. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, the Boilermakers might have had one of the worst shooting performances I’ve ever seen.
Purdue shot 35% from the floor and an abysmal 22% from beyond the arc. I’ve seen some of the least charismatic dudes you’ll meet at a Bloomington bar shoot their shot with more success than the Boilermakers.
They weren’t only missing from range, either. With 1:23 remaining and Purdue trailing by 10, Edey missed a barely contested layup off the top of the backboard.
I was stunned. Astounded. Flabbergasted. This man practically shoots free throws at a downward angle, and he completely bricked it from five feet out.
To be clear, I’m not trying to pile on Purdue or Edey. Every team has cold shooting nights. Watching Indiana men’s basketball these last four years, I occasionally feel like I’m auditing a class on brick masonry.
But in a heated matchup between two squads with everything to prove to one another, only one rose to the occasion. Winning on the road in the Big Ten requires a Herculean effort, and the fact that Indiana did so with its star player largely held in check is proof of the life Woodson has breathed into a previously floundering program.
Like with any big Hoosier victory, I hesitate to react too strongly. I’m sure this wouldn’t be as big of a deal in places that have large cities or prestigious professional sports teams or human rights or whatever, but this is Indiana. If your basketball team isn’t winning, what else do you have going for you?
If nothing else, Woodson has provided enough big wins to remind fans why Indiana hired him. Through all the embarrassing road losses and gutting injuries, the Hoosiers have managed to string together some seriously impressive victories. After Saturday night, I feel like a complete hater telling any fan to keep cool.
Still, try not to get too swept up in the moment. After all, getting swept is for Boilermakers.