With fading tournament hopes on the line, Indiana found itself in a remarkably familiar situation tonight. After recording 14 turnovers, tonight marked the 10th consecutive game in which Indiana had more turnovers than their opponent.
“Our decision making, at times isn’t there,” said Coach Tom Crean.
Some may argue that consistency is a virtue in basketball. For the Hoosiers, it has been one of their biggest flaws. Turnovers and foul trouble have plagued Indiana throughout the season, and tonight those issues were evident from the opening tip, as the Hoosiers lost to Purdue 86-75.
“We have to learn from it,” said Crean. “That’s what’s most important.”
Indiana began the game with two turnovers and a six-point deficit. Those six points were scored by two different Boilermakers that were not named Caleb Swanigan. This would remain a theme throughout the outing as Indiana would remain careless offensively, but also strategic in their defense of Swanigan.
Indiana had the size to contain Swanigan in the first half, holding the potential Big Ten Player of the Year to only four points in the first 20 minutes. With that said, the struggle defensively for the Hoosiers was the rest of Purdue. Dakota Mathias to be specific.
In the first half, Mathias hit a stride like no other. Mathias had 17 points in the half and was seven for nine from the field including three from behind the arc. Eight of those 17 points came consecutively, as Mathias created his own 8-0 run with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Mathias also had 14 of Purdue’s first 26 points on the night.
“Mathias is the one that makes it go, and we did not want him to break out on us, and he did,” said Crean.
With the focus defensively down in the post for the Hoosiers, the offense found its focus to be the exact opposite. The Hoosiers looked towards guard play to try and keep the team in reach. Thomas Bryant and Juwan Morgan were the only front-court players to score in the first, combining for 11 in the half. The rest of the offense was guard oriented.
A guard oriented approach can work as long as you hold onto the basketball. Indiana had 11 turnovers in the first half.
In addition to the turnovers, the guard focused offense was unable to get to the free throw line at all in the first half.
With turnovers, Dakota Mathias, and a lack in free throws in mind, Indiana was able to keep the game within reach thanks to a 7-0 run to end the half which left the Hoosiers down 40 to 32 entering the final 20 minutes.
In the second half, everything changed for the Hoosiers, but not in the way they would have liked.
Turnovers went to the wayside, as Indiana only had three turnovers in the entirety of the second half. The main issue was foul trouble.
“Our foul trouble is a lot different than other foul trouble, because we don’t have O.G., because we don’t have Collin, and so it really puts a lot of pressure on us to not foul,” said Crean.
Indiana learned quite quickly that the only way to stop Caleb Swanigan for 40 minutes, is by staying on the floor. De’Ron Davis picked up his fourth foul of the game with 16:32 remaining, and Thomas Bryant picked up his with 15:14 left to go.
To counter, Indiana didn’t seem to get the same amount of foul calls.
“I don’t even know where to begin with some of that,” said Crean. “I mean, certainly there were fouls, but it’s amazing that we didn’t shoot free throw until there was 11 minutes left in the game, in a physical battle where we out scored them in the paint.”
Indiana eventually shot 17 free throws on the night, but none of them came in the first 32 minutes of play. Purdue was 28 for 33 from the charity stripe.
“I’m really just kinda looking at the stat sheet bewildered,” said Crean.
After a few more minutes had passed, De’Ron Davis fouled out with 12:19 remaining in the game and the Hoosiers down 55 to 45.
With the Hoosiers down to few options, Tom Crean brought in junior center Tim Priller.
“Everybody is getting better,” said Crean. “I mean, look at Tim Priller, he’s getting better.”
Priller went on to set a multitude of screens and score his first career points in a Big Ten game. Priller went on to score six points and accumulate four fouls in five minutes of game time.
With Priller on the floor, and Indiana without many options, Caleb Swanigan went onto finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds. This was Swanigan’s 24th double-double of the season, which leads the nation.
After a final foul on Thomas Bryant with over five minutes remaining in the game, Indiana was relegated to playing Freddie McSwain at center.
Without enough options to move forward, Purdue pilled it on and pulled away with the victory 86 to 75.
Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr. ended the night as the Hoosiers’ leading scorer with 16 points and Tim Priller was not far behind him with six.
“It’s hard to win when there’s a 15 point difference...when there’s a 23 free throw difference,”said Crean.