FORT WAYNE – Indiana and Purdue are traveling different paths as the rivals meet in Assembly Hall today in the programs’ 200th meeting.
The No. 1 Hoosiers (22-3, 10-2) are tied with No. 8 Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) for first place in the Big Ten, and they are trying to remain in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Boilermakers (12-13, 5-7) are 2-5 in their last seven games and are hoping to make the NIT or the College Basketball Invitational, if they play in the postseason at all.
Even though Indiana won the first meeting against Purdue 97-60 on Jan. 30 in Mackey Arena and has won the last three games against the Boilermakers by an average of 21.7 points, the Hoosiers insist they will not overlook today’s game.
We are going to have to come out and play the same way we did with the same intensity and the same fight, Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller said Friday. We did a lot of things right, but there are a lot of things we could have done even better in that (first) game and in the past few games we’ve played. So there’s always room for improvement, and we’re going to have to come out and play well.
Indiana isn’t concerned about what this game means for its place in the Big Ten or the postseason.
We are in it, that’s what matters, Indiana coach Tom Crean told reporters Friday. The minute you start thinking about being in it or the moment you start thinking about where you are at and where you could be is the moment you get away from what’s most important, which is the task at hand. They know how big a game this is. We’ve got a lot guys in this building that have been through a lot of tough days in this league and a lot of tough days with Purdue. Nobody forgets those things.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said during a Friday teleconference that he just wants his team to play harder. And after making the NCAA tournament in each of the last six seasons, Painter is hoping his team can get in some kind of postseason tournament.
Any time you have a young team and you can play some games and get extra games, like us going to Italy or playing in some postseason, I think it is a positive just because you want to gain as much experience as possible, Painter said. In terms of me talking about that to our staff or our players, I really don’t, I’m just trying to get them to play hard.
As difficult as it has been for Painter to get his team to play hard, it will be even harder to upset Indiana. The Hoosiers average a Big Ten-leading 82.9 points and are giving up 61.2.
Purdue is ninth in the conference in scoring with 64.9 points per game, and the Boilermakers give up 64.4 points per game, the 10th worst in the league.
It is very difficult, especially with a team like Indiana, who presses, gets into the basketball, just taking off and driving with your head down and trying to take on the world is not the answer, Painter said. If we didn’t learn that lesson the first time, we are going to have to do a better job of handling pressure, moving the basketball, being more patient but also taking some things once we create some angles, once we get numbers and get some advantages, you’ve got to be able to take advantage of that. That is also easier said then done.