The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, January 20, 2022 1:00 am

Breakdown

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

What is a rivalry? Is it a frequently played matchup of two evenly matched teams? If so, Indiana-Purdue has not been much of a rivalry lately.

The Boilermakers have owned the series, winning nine straight and 12 of 13, including all seven meetings during the tenure of former Hoosiers coach Archie Miller.

Tonight, the No. 4 Boilers go to Assembly Hall with a chance to win a 10th in a row against Indiana for the first time in 108 years.

“We just accept that challenge as part of that rivalry,” Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic said. “Yeah, we've had success lately, but we've really taken this game seriously and know what it means for this program and this university and the fans. ... We've done a good job of preparing for (Indiana) in the past and we have to do the same (this time).”

Here is a look at what Purdue will have to prepare for and what the Boilers bring to the table.

Guards

If Purdue has an Achilles heel, it's perimeter defense against quick, athletic guards, and Indiana's Xavier Johnson fits that bill. Against Illinois on Monday, the Boilermakers struggled in pick-and-roll defense and Fighting Illini point guard Andre Curbelo picked them apart. Johnson will have a chance to do the same if he can avoid turnovers. Indiana's Parker Stewart will also get an opportunity to slash into the lane, a feature of his game he has showcased more often in recent weeks.

Purdue features one of the best guards in the country in Jaden Ivey, a likely future NBA lottery pick. If Indiana turns the ball over, Ivey will be prepared to capitalize with fast-break wizardry. He's also improved on the defensive end and will spend time playing nose-to-nose with Stewart. Stefanovic is the Big Ten's leading qualifying 3-point shooter at 41.7% and Eric Hunter Jr. is a good on-ball defender who will try to slow down Johnson.

Edge: Purdue

Forwards

While both teams have outstanding centers, their power forwards are not to be overlooked. Purdue's Mason Gillis is a bulldog on the glass and stretches the defense with his 53.3% 3-point shooting (in a minuimal nonqualifying sample size). Fort Wayne native Caleb Furst, a Blackhawk Christian graduate, will see his first action in the Indiana-Purdue rivalry.

Indiana's Race Thompson does a great job of moving without the ball so center Trayce Jackson-Davis can find him with interior passes when opponents send a double-team. Thompson can score with his back to the basket and has six double-digit rebound games this season. Small forward Miller Kopp provides some important shot-making ability in a bigger body.

Edge: Even

Centers

This is where the real fireworks will be. Indiana's Jackson-Davis and Purdue's Trevion Williams were preaseason All-Americans and Williams' 7-foot-4 teammate Zach Edey could be on his way to that distinction this season. Can Jackson-Davis, who might be less than 100% after injuring his hip against Nebraska on Monday, handle Edey and Williams one-on-one? If not, and Indiana has to double, are the Hoosiers' defensive rotations good enough to keep Purdue from picking them apart? Williams is the best passing big man in the country and he and Edey thoroughly outplayed Illinois star Kofi Cockburn on Monday.

Jackson-Davis has improved as a passer this season and is more effective because Indiana has better shooting around him, making double-teams less efficient. He's also better as a rim protector, leading the Big Ten at 2.9 blocks per contest. Indiana might need some extra minutes from 7-foot backup center Michael Durr if Jackson-Davis is not at his best physically.

Edge: Purdue

Coaching

Indiana's Mike Woodson is getting his first taste of the rivalry as a coach after winning (and losing) some memorable games against the Boilermakers during his years playing for the Hoosiers.

Woodson has revamped Indiana into a deeper, more versatile opponent than the Boilermakers saw for four years during Miller's tenure, but Purdue coach Matt Painter is 18-9 against the Hoosiers.

Edge: Purdue

Intangibles

The Boilermakers have controlled the series recently and are coming off a galvanizing double-overtime road victory over the Illini. The Hoosiers are 11-0 at Assembly Hall and are likely tired of the talk about the rivalry losing streak.

Purdue, though, has almost its entire team back from last season and is battled tested in a way the transfer-filled Hoosiers are not. 

Edge: Purdue

Prediction: No. 4 Purdue 78, Indiana 66

dsinn@jg.net


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