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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:28 pm

Pregame: Indiana (16-13) at Purdue (23-6)

The Journal Gazette

Pregame: Indiana (16-13) at Purdue (23-6)

WEST LAFAYETTE -? Indiana?s saga has been captivating enough, as the state?s glamour program fights through adversity, both self-created and borne of injury.

Now the question is: Can the Hoosiers withstand the pressure of playing their hated rival, the mighty Boilermakers, on their own floor? No. 16 Purdue is 14-2 at Mackey Arena.

Here are three things the Hoosiers need to do if they want to pull an upset tonight:

1. Someone other than James Blackmon Jr. must ascend

For all the talk about how much the Hoosiers need Blackmon, we tend to forget how much Blackmon needs Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson. Blackmon will get much of the attention from the Boilermakers, who will hound him with Dakota Mathias and try to suffocate Blackmon wherever he goes on the floor. Are Bryant and Johnson capable of carrying the load when necessary?

2. Never lose track of Mathias, Vince Edwards and Ryan Cline

While Caleb Swanigan is a nightmare for opposing defenses to stop, and likely the Big Ten Player of the Year this season, the Boilermakers? outside shooters are truly the thing that makes Purdue so deadly offensively. Mathias is hitting at an insane 47.6 percent clip from behind the arc while taking four 3-pointers a game, and the 6-foot-8 Edwards starts at power forward and knocks down 43.6 percent from 3. Indiana can?t lose track of Mathias or Edwards or Ryan Cline (42 percent) at any time -? particularly in transition -? as they can change the complexion of a game in a matter of minutes if they get loose on a couple possessions in a row, something underdog Indiana can ill afford to let happen.

3. Speed it up

One recurring theme in coach Tom Crean?s tenure is how he wants Indiana to play fairly up-tempo. As the Hoosiers have lost seven of their last nine, you notice how slowly the team is playing, physically and sometimes mentally. They often take forever to get into their sets and don?t run as much.

Indiana needs to rediscover that energy to get some easy transition baskets tonight. That would be a partial remedy for its difficulties in the half court, where Purdue bottled up the Hoosiers Feb. 9 in the first meeting, holding them to 39 percent shooting. That same energy would help Indiana stop fighting the shot clock at the end of possessions.