Indiana 78, Purdue 61: Hoosiers make statement at Mackey.

Wow. That felt pretty good, didn't it? Playing without starting point guard Verdell Jones III and in an arena where IU had won only 11 times previously, the Hoosiers asserted themselves for the entire game and won 78-61. The final score doesn't truly reflect the reality that the game could have gone either way until the final couple of minutes, but as it stands, this was IU's most lopsided win at Mackey since 1984 and Purdue's most lopsided home loss since a loss to Ohio State in 2007. It also was Tom Crean's first win over the Boilermakers after an 0-5 start, and IU's first Big Ten road win against anyone other than Penn State since 2008. I have said before that I thought the "road struggles" meme was overplayed, and this may not even have been the best of IU's four road wins this season (NC State is now 17-7 and 6-3 in the ACC). But it's been a constant source of discussion, and a comfortable win at Purdue is about the best way imaginable to put that issue to rest.

The way the game played out is roughly how I might have expected it to go on a neutral court. As expected, Travis Carroll was no match for Cody Zeller. Victor Oladipo, starting at point guard in place of Jones, was very effective at getting to the basket. IU controlled the boards, grabbing 44 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities and holding Purdue to 28 percent. The shooting wasn't a thing of beauty from either side. IU finished the game shooting 41 percent and Purdue 29 percent. In what has to be a first in IU's trips to Mackey, the Hoosiers held a decided advantage at the free throw line. IU was 29-35 from the line compared to 14-21 for Purdue (that is skewed a bit by Purdue fouling late when behind, including when hopelessly behind. IU shot only 3-10 from three point range, while Purdue was 5-21. Purdue got many more opportunities than IU, thanks to typically excellent turnovers (3 for Purdue, although IU's 11 turnovers, 16.3 percent, was pretty good compared to what the Hoosiers usually do.

As good as Oladipo was (a career-high 23 points and 8 boards), the key individual performance was from freshman Remy Abell. Abell's playing time has been very uneven this year, but he has always impressed with his poise and fearlessness. That was never more the case than last night, when he scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting. With 1:30 remaining, the IU lead had been fluctuating between 4 and 6 points for about four minutes, but when Abell buried a three pointer from the corner to give IU a 9 point lead, the game was all but over. Other individual performances:

  • Cody Zeller was 4-7 from the field and finished with 16 points thanks to a strong performance from the line.
  • Jordan Hulls had a rough shooting night, 4-10 from the field and 0-3 from deep.
  • Christian Watford has a rough night offensively, finish 0-7 from the field and with only 4 points, but had 6 boards and played solid defense.
  • Derek Elston was was a little rugged, shooting 1-6 from the field but also was solid on the boards.
The most heartening thing about this game is that it wasn't an incredible offensive performance. IU didn't shoot all that well and didn't do much from behind the arc. Christian Watford, Derek Elston, and Jordan Hulls all had subpar games offensively. Yet, in many respects IU beat Purdue at its own game. As I said at the beginning of this week, it wasn't essential to win one of the two road games, but it is very nice to avoid a 5-7 Big Ten record. IU now is 6-6, 18-6 overall, with four of six remaining Big Ten games at home. More importantly, this was a very big win for the program and for these coaches and players especially. I'm sure they have heard the critics, those who suggested that IU was incapable of winning a game like last night's. That sort of talk is over, at least for a while. IU has won bigger games this season, but none more satisfying.
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