Maybe you’ve heard: Archie Miller hasn’t beaten Purdue since stepping foot in Bloomington.
But it’s a problem that predates the current IU coach, a seven-game skid that dates to the 2016-17 season. Altogether, Purdue has won 10 of its last 11 against its in-state rival. What’s more, the Boilermakers are having their way with the Hoosiers inside Assembly Hall, where Matt Painter’s teams have claimed four straight showdowns. A win Thursday would match Wisconsin’s building record for the most consecutive wins in the ol’ ball hall. Then again, I’m not sure anyone can honestly say that this game qualified as basketball.
Either way, it’s been a tough go against Purdue these past few years. But the team IU will meet on Thursday night is probably the most beatable bunch o’ Boilers the Hoosiers have seen in at least a few seasons. And yet, this is Archieball we’re talking about. So, who can say?
Purdue enters play with an identical conference record as IU, but two of the Boilers’ wins came over ranked opponents — No. 20 Ohio State and No. 23 Michigan State. The win over the Spartans is Purdue’s lone campus road victory thus far, a recent come-from-behind effort that saw the Boilers rally from a 17-point, second-half hole. It was a surprising turnaround, given ... well ... Purdue is not a good offensive team. The Boilers rank 13th in conference play, per the Bart Torvik database, in offensive efficiency, 11th in effective field goal percentage (48.5%) and 12th in 3-point shooting (30.8%). They also turn the ball over at a high rate, and across their first two games this month, the Boilers are shooting merely 36.6% from the field. However, Purdue has been much better on the other end, and ranks second during conference play in defensive efficiency.
Looking at personnel, forward Trevion Williams has scored in double figures in seven straight games. He’s one of nine players nationally to average 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, and he’s one of only two players in the country to have an assist percentage (25.3%) and total rebound percentage (23.2%) greater than 20%. Williams is one of three juniors in Purdue’s starting five, joining backcourt classmates Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr. Averaging 10.7 points and shooting 49% from 3-point range, Stefanovic is one of three Big Ten players (Jordan Bohannon, Marcus Carr) — and eight players nationally — to have at least 33 assists and 33 made 3-pointers so far this season. Hunter, though he’s averaging 10.3 points this season, has really struggled as of late. Across the past three games, he’s posted just 16 total points with all of them coming either from the line or from 3-point range. He went scoreless against Illinois, and he’s shot merely 3-for-21 from the field in that recent three-game span.
A significant chunk of Purdue’s total production this season is coming from the freshman class (including redshirts). Across the first 13 games, Boiler freshmen have accounted for 38.4% of the team’s total scoring, and in four games (Liberty, Clemson, Miami and Maryland), the freshmen have supplied more than 50% of the offensive production. Mason Gillis, a physical 6-foot-6 forward, is averaging just under five points and three rebounds. Zach Edey, Williams’ understudy, is averaging 8.8 points and 4.0 boards, while shooting 62.3% from the field. Jaden Ivey has also been solid off the bench. Ivey has 25 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in 70 combined minutes across the last four games. Notably, Ivey has committed only two turnovers in 121 minutes this season.
Things to watch
It’s not just beating Purdue that’s important ...
... it’s getting a win at the start of a daunting stretch of games that matters as much as anything. After this, IU has road dates at Michigan State and Iowa, followed by games against Rutgers and Michigan to close the month. And it doesn’t get any easier in February. Although Indiana got the wins it needed during its most recent four-game stretch, the Hoosiers didn’t look all that convincing in doing so. Things only get more difficult now.
Purdue’s big men, as you might imagine, have shown to be foul prone. Williams is averaging 2.9 fouls per game, while Edey is averaging 2.5 fouls in 14.4 minutes per contest off the bench. On the other end, keeping Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson on the floor will be crucial in a head-to-head like this.
In last year’s game in Bloomington, IU no-showed — just completely failed to make an appearance until it was too late. That can’t happen again. For a number of reasons.
Franklin — will he or won’t he?
Armaan Franklin hasn’t played since suffering an ankle sprain seven minutes into the Maryland game on Jan. 4. He’s still not close to 100%, but Archie Miller didn’t rule out a return against Purdue. If Franklin gives it a go, how much can he play and how effective can he be?
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Purdue (8-5, 3-3) at Indiana (8-5, 3-3)
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
When? Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Channel? FS1 | Tim Brando (p-b-p), Donny Marshall (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Indiana -4