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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, January 20, 2019 2:40 pm

Pregame: No. 25 Indiana (15-3, 4-2 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (13-6, 4-2)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – After the Indiana and Purdue men's basketball teams met Saturday, resulting in a 70-55 Boilermakers win, the same pair of women's teams will take the court at Mackey Arena this afternoon. It's a game that parallels the men's matchup in many ways.

In both games, Indiana came in ranked No. 25 and sporting a superior overall record. In both games, the Boilermakers should be favored. The Hoosiers women's team has lost two of its last three following a 14-1 start, including a loss at home against a previously struggling Northwestern team on Wednesday. Indiana shot just 40 percent in that game and was outrebounded 42-29. It's that latter statistic that could spell trouble for the Hoosiers against Purdue. The Boilermakers have out-rebounded three straight opponents (including Northwestern) and have two players – Ae'Rianna Harris and Tamara Farquhar – who average at least 7.8 rebounds per game. Indiana has no one averaging more than 7.3. Purdue should have an advantage on the glass today.

One of the most intriguing subplots of this game is what happened between these teams last season. The Hoosiers won all three matchups, including a third-round WNIT game that ended Purdue's season. Indiana went on to win the WNIT, its first title in program history. Harris and teammate Karissa McLaughlin said that when the team met before the season, their most important goal was to never let that happen again. They'll come into this game with a giant chip on their shoulder. McLaughlin in particular will have something to prove when she matches up with Indiana guard Ali Patberg, the Hoosiers' leading scorer. They met in the 2015 Class 4A state championship game between McLaughlin's Homestead team and Patberg's Columbus North squad. Patberg, who transferred from Notre Dame to the Hoosiers last year, scored 31 points to lead Columbus North to a comeback win. When McLaughlin spoke about the game on Friday, it was clear she remembered it very well. The matchup between the high-scoring guards will be one to watch; that they are two of the last four Indiana Miss Basketball honorees (Patberg in 2015 and McLaughlin in 2017) makes it even more special.

If recent Purdue games are any indication, this one should be close. The Boilermakers have played five straight games decided by seven points or fewer, winning three of them. The game is important for the Big Ten race, as well, as the teams come in tied for second at 4-2, joined by Maryland and Iowa. All four trail Rutgers, which has won nine in a row and is 6-0 in conference play. The loser today will fall three games behind in the loss column and face an uphill battle to a conference title. For Purdue, it's part of a season-defining stretch in which it will play five ranked opponents in six games. The Boilermakers have split the first two (beating Iowa and falling in overtime to Rutgers) and could use another big win to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume. Of course, Indiana could too.