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Tuesday, May 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana basketball blown out by Purdue, NCAA tournament hopes on the brink

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As Purdue senior center Zach Edey scored his 30th point Tuesday night on a turnaround jumper, Indiana head coach Mike Woodson motioned his right hand downwards. 

Symbolically, Woodson appeared to be waving the game away – all the while his team’s NCAA tournament hopes were facing much the same fate. 

Trailing 73-56 with less than seven minutes to play, Indiana’s second half charge had fallen short, and the score only spiraled thereafter. 

The Hoosiers (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten) were run out Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, suffering an 87-66 loss to the No. 2 Boilermakers (16-2, 5-2 Big Ten). It’s the largest home loss Indiana’s ever taken against Purdue. 

Perhaps most importantly, it’s another opportunity gone by the wayside to boost a resume in desperate need of a signature win. 

Indiana’s now played four ranked teams. The Hoosiers are 0-4 in those matchups, and only once – Dec. 16 against No. 3 University of Kansas – have they lost by fewer than 20 points. 

Metrics already weren’t in the Hoosiers’ favor, as they entered Tuesday ranked No. 98 in NET and No. 95 in KenPom. 

Tuesday night presented a chance for Indiana to land a win over one of the country’s best teams. Instead, it trailed 51-29 at halftime while boos reigned down from the white-out crowd inside Assembly Hall. 

“We got smacked the first half, and you've got to give them credit,” Woodson said. “I thought they were tougher. Yeah, there were a lot of fouls called against us, but they set the tone.” 

Indiana, in a hotly contested rivalry matchup, shot a measly 35.1% from the floor in the first half. Purdue, conversely, hit 50% of its shots, including 41.7% from distance compared to the Hoosiers’ 16.7%. 

As Woodson referenced, Indiana was called for 11 fouls versus Purdue’s five, but the Hoosiers’ shots simply weren’t falling. 

Woodson calling out Indiana’s toughness is equally as concerning as anything else – if you can’t physically compete at your highest level against your biggest rival, when can you? 

Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway confirmed his disappointment postgame in the team’s lack of physicality from start to finish. 

“I mean, especially when it's a big game like this – you've got to find ways to fight and be tough,” Galloway said. 

Woodson said he was particularly displeased with sophomore center Kel’el Ware’s play against Edey, who finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds. Ware, conversely, mustered only 5 points and six rebounds while being limited by foul trouble in the first half, ultimately playing 26 total minutes. 

Ware embodies Indiana’s big-game struggles. In the Hoosiers’ four ranked games, the 7-footer has averaged 10 points per game but shot only 34.6% from the floor. For the season, he’s averaging 14.2 points while hitting 54.5% of his attempts. 

Consider last season, when Indiana had National Player of the Year contender Trayce Jackson-Davis opposing Edey. Edey still scored plenty, but the Hoosiers ultimately prevailed in both contests. 

This time around, the Hoosiers didn’t have enough horsepower offensively to keep up with the Boilermakers. It’s another stark contrast between last year’s NCAA Tournament team and this year’s mere tournament hopefuls. 

But the Hoosiers can’t afford many more slip-ups in Big Ten play. They won only one non-conference game against a Power 5 foe, coming Nov. 20 against the University of Louisville, which holds a 6-10 record. 

Indiana’s best nonconference victory is a 69-68 win over Morehead State University on Dec. 19. The Eagles currently rank just No. 132 in the NET. 

In essence, the Hoosiers need a strong run in Big Ten play to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in Woodson’s three-year tenure – and while they’re one of only five teams with a winning record in conference games, they still need more down the stretch. 

Opportunity exists for Indiana to stack quality wins. It has back-to-back road games looming against ranked teams – at No. 11 Wisconsin on Jan. 19 and at No. 14 Illinois on Jan. 27. 

Both would be Quadrant 1 victories – the Hoosiers currently have none, giving them a chance to significantly boost their resume over the next two games. 

With just two ranked games left thereafter – Feb. 10 at Purdue and Feb. 27 vs. Wisconsin – this stretch has a chance to determine just how far Indiana can go this season. 

But if history is any indication, the Hoosiers may be in for a rude awakening. Indiana’s just 1-2 in true road games this season and hasn’t won at Wisconsin since Jan. 25, 1998. 

Still, if the Hoosiers hope to make something of an otherwise underwhelming season, they’ll need to discover some road magic – sooner rather than later. 

“We've got to move forward and get ready for Wisconsin now and see where we go from here,” Woodson said. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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