Well, that was not very fun.
The offense came out firing for precisely five minutes before the bench came in and all of the flow and ball movement disappeared. That remained the trend for the rest of the game.
Purdue is a good team and did their thing. Indiana did not have a lot of answers for that. And Mackey Arena did not make it easy for the Hoosiers to overcome the early deficit they found themselves in.
For most of the second half, Purdue led by around 20 points and nearly stretched it to 30. Malik Reneau fouled out with more than seven minutes to go. Ware sat for an extended stretch in the first half, then picked up his third early in the second half.
Oh and Zach Edey banked in a 3-pointer. The first of his career.
A total disaster.
Here are Three Observations:
With Ware in early foul trouble and Gabe Cupps struggling early, Mike Woodson had some decisions to make. He has stated in the past that he regretted leaving Ware on the bench with two fouls, but did it again tonight and gave Payton Sparks extended first half minutes.
Anthony Leal was second off the bench, after Sparks, but failed to give Indiana the spark he had in recent games. In 29 combined minutes, Leal and Sparks each were -11.
Woodson has had success defending Zach Edey in the past by using his strongest player, playing Michael Durr 24 minutes, and sacrificing some offensive production at the five spot. But Sparks was forcing it too much on offense, turning it over, and failing to hit free throws.
In both halves, we saw some of the three guard lineup we have all wanted, with varying results. As mentioned before, Cupps and Leal struggled on both ends of the floor tonight and Galloway tired himself out as both the primary point guard and the guy assigned to defend Braden Smith.
Gunn heated up in the second half, which could be a good thing going forward, but it was too little too late. He hasn’t been consistent this year, but I think any version of Xavier Johnson would have given Indiana a much-needed boost tonight.
Bench Production (And Some Starters)
Outside of C.J. Gunn, the other three bench players for Indiana combined to score 7 points in 46 minutes. Meanwhile, Purdue got nine points from just Mason Gillis, and 15 from its bench overall.
The lack of production was not strictly limited to Indiana’s bench either. Mackenzie Mgbako quietly got to 12 points, but had just one rebound and turned it over twice.
Malik Reneau, who averages 16.4 points per game, scored just 6 tonight as he’s continued to struggle against Purdue this year. In the two contests against the Boilermakers, he’s scored 14 points total.
Kel’el Ware and Trey Galloway played well and played hard, but it just wasn’t enough with the lack of help around them. Ware led the team with eight rebounds and had 11 points against Zach Edey, while Galloway added 10 points and a whopping seven assists.
Then there was C.J. Gunn, who ended as Indiana’s leading scorer with 13 points on 3-4 3-point shooting. He looked a little rattled by the atmosphere in the first half, but settled in by the end of the game to set a new career-high in scoring.
Purdue is a good basketball team and they were able to play their game tonight.
The main thing keeping Indiana in the game early was the Boilermakers missing their early 3-point attempts, but those started falling in the second half and then the game was over, effectively.
With Wisconsin in the midst of a four game losing streak, Purdue appears to be the favorite to win the Big Ten yet again. Potentially by a wider margin than last year’s three game lead by the end of the season.
Whether you like the way they play or not, Matt Painter has built a team that can dominate the
modern current Big Ten. They will have to prove something in the NCAA tournament, but guys like Lance Jones and an improved Braden Smith give them a better shot at avoiding another catastrophic loss.
And now Mike Woodson has fallen to .500 against his in-state rival, with something to prove next season or maybe even in the Big Ten tournament, depending on how seeding shakes out. There’s still a lot of basketball left to play.