Since the purveyors of this fine website both had tough college basketball weekends (Georgia Tech? St. Bonaventure???) I have been asked to recap the thrill of a victory over a hated in-state rival. After three straight Old Oaken Bucket victories and those pesky National Championship banners, and the World’s Greatest College Weekend, and….well, you get the idea, I’m kind of an expert on this.
The Hoosiers maintained their perfect record (17-0) this season at Assembly Hall by holding off a late charge from the Boilers and took sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 77-73 victory. The game seemed all but over as the Hoosiers built a 19 point second half lead but ultimately the Boilers clawed back to force an ending that will be argued in barber shops and VFW Halls from Angola to Zionsville.
After cutting the lead to two with less than 10 seconds to play, Purdue guards couldn’t stay with Yogi Ferrell forcing AJ Hammons to make a spectacular block that was questionably called goaltending due to his arm hitting the rim. After hours on internet message boards and subsequent hours spent trying to cleanse myself of that experience, I am still no closer to understanding if it was the right or wrong call. My only clue is that the game was officiated by TV Teddy Valentine, so if I had to guess, it was the wrong call.
For a 100 year old rivalry that has gone from the heights of deciding Big Ten titles to the lows of the early Crean years, this game will be nothing more than a footnote in its illustrious history – fun to discuss but not the top of any best game list. The biggest travesty of all is the lack of a regular season return trip to West Lafayette. The Big Ten needs to recognize and protect this rivalry by ensuring they play twice a year. Mackey Arena has its own charms and is a crazy difficult place to win, so it certainly benefits the Hoosiers to not play there, but last night was so heated and fun, why would you not do it twice a year? And don’t try to argue B1G tourney, much like Jay Cutler…DOOOOOOOOOOON’T CARE.
3 Keys to the Game
- Troy Williams – Troy wanted to be a baller on Saturday night. All season, the question for the Hoosiers has been will good Troy or bad Troy show up. Good Troy is a physical freak whose athleticism makes him a matchup nightmare and desire to the finish at the rim results in at least a foul. Good Troy opens up the offense by slashing and taking a good defender off of our other perimeter players. Bad Troy is a selfish, turnover machine who can single-handedly lose games for a top #25 team. Last night, Troy Williams went for 20 points, 4 assists, and NO TURNOVERS. If that Troy shows up the rest of the season this Hoosier team is dangerous come March.
- Purdue’s Perimeter Offense – For a team with height and post advantage Purdue has its guards must simply contribute. They don’t need to take over games or shoot 50% from 3-point range, all they need to do is provide competent support to Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan. Instead, their leader in minutes scored 0 points in 34 minutes of action Saturday night. That’s bad. Purdue’s comeback attempt was fueled by a few made 3-pointers, which helped space the floor and create some semblance of an offense for the Boilers. If Purdue can’t find perimeter scoring, they will be home the second weekend of the tournament.
- Coach Crean – I can’t believe it either but Coach Crean actually seemed to have a plan to combat Purdue’s decided size advantage. Think of the 2013 Syracuse Sweet Sixteen game and then think the exact opposite – it was that noticeable. Crean used Thomas Bryant to pull AJ Hammons away from the basket helping the movement of the Hoosier offense. Additionally, this got him into early foul trouble and only 14 minutes of game action. Haas and Swanigan both played well and were unstoppable at times but Coach Crean just kept throwing bodies at them and forcing them to work on both ends of the floor. Coach Crean will never be remembered for maximizing talent but he out-coached Matt Painter for at least one night.
Saturday night was like most in Bloomington – a little out of control, a little hazy, and a whole lot of fun based on your lack of voice and sincere hope someone finds your wallet the next morning. Beating Purdue is important and for 365 days of Spring Breaks, Summer vacations, and every normal Wednesday, Hoosier fans can proudly wear their cream and crimson throughout the state.
The Hoosiers play at Illinois on Thursday before ending the season at Iowa and with Maryland at home. Three games left and they control their own destiny for an outright conference title – better be sure to get loose for the stretch run! Crean stretching to “Pony”