Since Indiana last saw Purdue, The Boilermakers have dropped a couple more road games to double their loss total and drop to No. 5 in the AP Poll. The Boilermakers had a get right game with an Ohio State team that continues to free fall, which they took advantage of, winning 82-55 in Mackey arena.
Purdue’s other win since last seeing Indiana was also a home game, when it beat Iowa 87-73. The 2-2 split over the last four games honestly hasn’t been as bad as it sounds for Purdue, especially considering the fact that Maryland has yet to lose a Big Ten game at home this year.
More significant are the home/road splits, which should not be surprising considering the extent to which they rely on underclassmen to be secondary scorers around Zach Edey. Indiana has had its share of struggles with its own young guys playing in hostile environments, so it’s not a shock that Purdue’s been hit with the same thing at this point in the season.
On the other hand, it does demonstrate a pretty clear path to victory for Indiana, which it was able to execute the first time around: Make it hard for Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith.
Looking at the box scores of those two road losses for Purdue, Indiana could realistically focus more of its attention on Fletcher Loyer and still steal a win. In the Boilermakers’ two road losses, he was held to just two and six points.
Smith, on the other hand, put up a respectable 18 and 10 in those two games, but without big contributions from Caleb Furst, Brandon Newman, or Ethan Morton, it wasn’t enough to lead Purdue to victory. Any of those guys, plus Mason Gillis, are a threat to get hot, especially at home, so Indiana can’t overlook them when it comes down to stopping Smith and Loyer.
Of course, the crowd will be a factor, as these young players have played better in Mackey than they have away from it. The Hoosiers will probably have to pressure them even harder than they did in Assembly Hall to get them off their games.
Ultimately, Purdue will be heavy favorites, so Indiana doesn’t have much to lose in this game. I would love to see a win as much as anybody, but this is very clearly the hardest game left on the schedule and a loss would not be detrimental to Indiana’s postseason chances.
The Big Ten has been far too stupid this season for me to try to hazard any sort of guess as to how the game will turn out. But between the fact that this one is in West Lafayette and the possibility that Purdue will have an even bigger chip on its shoulder after the last two losses means Indiana will have its work cut out for it tomorrow.