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Monday, May 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Edey, diverse No. 2 Purdue present matchup struggles for Indiana basketball

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At the centerpiece of an explosive No. 2 Purdue offense leading the Big Ten in 3-point percentage isn’t a shifty, playmaking guard or a dynamic wing player: it’s 7-foot-4 senior center Zach Edey. 

For Indiana men’s basketball, Tuesday night’s matchup against the Boilermakers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will have a spotlight on Edey, a 22.3 point-per-game scorer and one of, if not the most, dominant big men in the country. 

“He’s a load,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said Monday morning. “I mean, I don’t even know how to explain it. He’s a big guy that’s very skilled and tough to deal with.” 

Edey demands constant defensive attention. On high usage and volume, he leads the conference in scoring and field goal percentage at 64.5%. And for a player susceptible to drawing fouls, Indiana sophomores Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau are faced with a colossal challenge inside. 

With so much focus on Edey and his prolific scoring ability, Purdue’s supporting cast has thrived. The Boilermakers have shot a staggering 39.8% from beyond the arc, and sophomore guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, both Indiana natives, have been a crucial part of that equation. 

After flashing outside shooting prowess as freshman, Smith and Loyer have taken the next step in their second season in West Lafayette. Shooting 48.2% and 40.8%, respectively, Smith and Loyer form a backcourt capable of devastating defenses with the long ball. 

“That’s the biggest challenge,” Woodson said. “You’re going to have to guard the 3-point line and still deal with Edey.” 

Though playing on their home court Tuesday night — where they’ve had the bulk of their success — the Hoosiers have been marred by inconsistency this season. Primarily in the shooting and rebounding departments, Indiana hasn’t been able to produce a modicum of game-to-game dominance. 

After toppling Ohio State on Jan. 6, the Hoosiers laid an egg on the road against Rutgers. Then, they returned home and swiftly stomped out Minnesota. Indiana has been a difficult squad to project given its volatility on both ends of the floor, but of late, its performances against the rival Boilermakers have been steady.

Last year, behind a commanding home performance from now Golden State Warriors forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and midrange mastery from now Los Angeles Lakers guard Jalen Hood-Schifino on the road, Indiana swept its regular season series against Purdue for the first time since 2013. 

With a 3-1 coaching record against the Boilermakers, and extensive experience in the rivalry as a player, Woodson knows the weight of the matchup better than most. 

“We take each game one game at a time, and we prepare pretty much the same way in terms of who we’re playing,” Woodson said. “That won’t change.” 

But without Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino, certified go-to options on the offensive end, Indiana is left searching for replacements through a committee approach. Senior guard Trey Galloway figured to become a central part of the new offensive attack after lighting it up from deep last season, but he’s underwhelmed thus far. 

Galloway, though scoring double-digit points, is averaging a measly 26.9% from range and just 47.7% from the free throw line. He displayed the best parts of his game against Minnesota, slashing to the hoop and thriving in pick and rolls, but like the rest of the Hoosiers, Galloway hasn’t found a consistent shooting stroke. 

For a player who has risen to some of the biggest occasions in his collegiate career, and especially against Purdue, Galloway’s woes have been confounding, Woodson said Monday morning. He said all he can do is continue to encourage Galloway and attempt to instill confidence. 

Despite Galloway and the Hoosiers outside shooting improving marginally of late — they shot 43% from deep against Minnesota — Tuesday night’s contest figures to be a battle in the paint. Thus, Ware will be relied upon to shore up the boards and prevent Edey from prolonging possessions. 

Ware, who arrived to Indiana this offseason with questions about his motor and discipline at the University of Oregon, has quelled those concerns. Indiana’s top rebounder has fallen into bad habits at times, but his fight on the interior and toughness on the boards have become evident. 

“It’s the second effort,” Woodson said. “When we first got him, that didn’t even exist in terms of him making second and third efforts to try to go get the basketball. From where he was, man, he’s come a long way, and it’s kind of nice to see because a lot of people just didn’t expect that because he hadn’t played.” 

Against Edey and sophomore forward Trey Kaufman-Renn, Ware and Reneau will have to tame a tandem set on physicality and scoring the ball inside.  

In Tuesday’s clash, which is set to tip off at 7 p.m. and will be streamed on Peacock, the Boilermakers present immense struggles with their diverse skillsets and explosive offense. Despite being overmatched on paper, Indiana’s recent history has shown it saves some of its best play for this game. 

“You can’t ask for bigger games than this,” Woodson said. “Like I said, this is what fans like to see. It’s good for college basketball.” 

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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