Indiana men’s basketball will face off against No. 2 Purdue for the second time this season on Saturday night in Mackey Arena. Following a disastrous 87-66 loss at Assembly Hall on Jan. 16 — Indiana's largest margin of defeat to the Boilermakers at home since 1934 — the Hoosiers look to avenge themselves in enemy territory.
Other than an encouraging run to put Indiana down 9 points early in the second half, Purdue stomped the Hoosiers in the first matchup. The Boilermakers scored 51 points in the first frame and dominated Indiana across the board in nearly every stat.
Indiana simply looked outclassed. However, it isn’t impossible for the Hoosiers to come out of Mackey with a win — a feat it accomplished last season. Here are three ways in which Indiana can threaten Purdue in the rivalry game.
Contain Zach Edey
Purdue senior center Zach Edey owned the paint against Indiana in the first contest. The 7-foot-4 center posted 33 points and 14 rebounds to single-handedly outperform Indiana’s frontcourt — its strongest asset.
Edey, the reigning unanimous National Player of the Year, earned 12 attempts at the free throw line and converted 11 of them. He prompted two early fouls from Indiana sophomore center Kel’el Ware and drew technical fouls on both sixth-year senior guard Xavier Johnson and junior forward Payton Sparks.
Indiana might require a mix of luck, discipline and skill to stop Edey. The team will need to play physically enough inside to disrupt Edey, but smart enough to avoid foul trouble to key players.
“You’ve got to bang some with him, because if you don’t, you get embarrassed,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said on Zoom on Thursday morning. “We’ve just got to go in with that mindset that, hey, hopefully we can stay out of foul trouble, bang a little bit and play aggressive like they do and see what happens.”
Ware’s availability for Saturday has been put in question due to an awkward lower-body injury he suffered in the final seconds of Indiana’s 76-73 win at Ohio State on Tuesday night. Woodson said Ware didn’t practice Wednesday and went through treatment. The 7-footer's presence will be key in slowing Edey down.
Make the right defensive rotations
Boilermaker sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer torched the Hoosiers on 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range — a few of them on wide-open looks. The same applied to fifth-year senior guard Lance Jones, who shot 3-for-7 from range.
“[He’s] a guy that’s getting the ball and makes plays off the bounce,” Woodson said of Jones. “Good ass 3-point shooter. I mean, tough kid. Great pickup for them.”
Despite an off shooting night, Purdue sophomore guard Braden Smith carved the Hoosiers apart with nine assists, serving as a maestro to the Boilermakers’ high-powered orchestra. Indiana’s poor closeouts on the quick Smith allowed him to drive to the basket and find open shooters.
Indiana is still performing inconsistently, especially on the defensive end. However, when things are clicking and the Hoosiers are playing well and making the right rotations, they’ve shown an ability to lock opponents down and limit the damage from the 3-point line.
The Hoosiers made more 3-pointers than Purdue in the first matchup — they shot 8-for-24 to the Boilermakers’ 7-for-19 — and may need to do so again to keep things close. Freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako will be significant in Indiana’s game plan as the Hoosiers’ primary shooting threat.
Make Purdue’s role players win the game
Slowing Edey down as much as possible will be important, but he is likely to produce a strong stat line regardless of the result. Last season, when Indiana swept the series against Purdue, Edey averaged 29.5 points and 17 rebounds — an absurdity considering the Boilermakers couldn’t prevail in either game.
A primary reason the Hoosiers won both contests was because they shut down Edey’s supporting cast, and that will be the key to making it a fight in West Lafayette on Saturday. Loyer was the only Boilermaker to finish in double figures in both games last season, but this season he finished with 19 points and Jones added 17 along with Smith’s playmaking.
“I mean, they got surrounding pieces around Edey that have gotten better, so there is no night off for any position when you play them,” Woodson said.
Purdue’s trio of Edey, Loyer and Jones accounted for 69 of Purdue’s 87 points in January. Limiting just one of them to a lower scoring output can hinder the Boilermakers’ game plan and give Indiana hope.
Woodson is aware the Hoosiers will need a nearly flawless performance to escape with an upset. For him, it’s about playing a complete game and getting lucky.
“You got to go out and commit for 40 minutes and do everything right and have a little luck on your side, and hopefully you can come out with the win,” he said. “That’s how it’s done.”