Right now, Indiana is clearly out of the NCAA Tournament picture. The Hoosiers’ loss to Rutgers drops them below .500 in Big Ten play and their two NET Quadrant 1 wins don’t seem enough to make up for winning just two of their last eight games. At this point, something drastic must happen to change their fortunes enough to earn them an offer.
A win at No. 9 Purdue would count as something drastic.
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The Hoosiers (18-11, 9-10 in the Big Ten) already have a victory over the Boilermakers (24-6, 13-6) this season, after eliminating them 68-65 on January 20, causing a shortfall storming onto the floor of the Assembly Hall. That said, at 2 p.m. Saturday, they are scheduled to head to Mackey Arena to face a Purdue side that is coming off two straight losses and knows they can deliver another blow to their rival’s playoff hopes.
Here are three things I’ll be watching for on Saturday.
How Every Team Handles Disappointment
In less than 24 hours. Purdue and Indiana both had high hopes dashed on an opponent’s 3-pointer. Purdue lost any shot of a share of the Big Ten title when Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn banked his 3-pointer on Tuesday night and Indiana lost its best chance to solidify its NCAA Tournament bid when Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. sank its Wednesday night.
But each team obviously still has something to play for. Purdue would like to be reimbursed for January, and the Boilermakers still have to worry about the NCAA tournament standings. Meanwhile, Indiana’s best hope of getting back into the tournament talk is to beat someone the Hoosiers aren’t supposed to beat, and Purdue at Mackey Arena would qualify. The dynamics of Saturday’s game could largely be determined by which team is best at putting this week’s disappointment behind them.
Insider:IU’s 3-point shots slam and his NCAA hopes crumble – again.
Who is guarding Jaden Ivey?
Purdue’s opener was perhaps the best proof of the quality of a wing defender Trey Galloway. Two weeks after returning from his fractured wrist, Galloway drew Jaden Ivey’s mission off the bench and drove him crazy. Ivey scored 21 points in the game, but only one of seven field goals he scored as Galloway defended him straight and was not hammered by a screen or forced into a switch. Galloway annoyed the All-American and likely top-5 draft pick so much that Ivey actually pushed him at one point.
But Galloway has a strong groin pull. Indiana coach Mike Woodson isn’t always on top of injury updates, but during Tuesday’s Zoom press conference he said he doesn’t know when Galloway might return. .
If the 6-5, 200-pounder is knocked out, the Hoosiers go back to having no obvious defensive game for college basketball’s most explosive guard. Point guards Xavier Johnson and Rob Phinisee could both draw at some point, but Woodson was unwilling to use his bigger wings to shield Purdue point guards Isaiah Thompson and Eric Hunter Jr. in Game 1. If he keeps Johnson and Phinisee guarding the ball when they’re both not in the game together, he’ll again ask Parker Stewart to step in and try to defend a more athletic keeper than him. Ivey didn’t exploit the game much in the first half of Game 1, but in the second half he went right on Stewart and tightened up a game that Indiana had been leading significantly at that time. Ivey will likely get his no matter who keeps him on Saturday, but the Hoosiers need to find a way to keep him from blowing up.
Can IU point guards score like they did in the first game?
In Game 1, Purdue challenged Johnson and Phinisee to shoot, and the IU point guards responded with a total of 38 points on 15-of-30 shooting. They were 6 of 11 from 3-point range and the rest of the team was 0 of 9. And sure enough, Phinisee hit what turned out to be the game-winning 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left.
Continued:Rob Phinisee’s return is cause for celebration, but boost couldn’t carry IU past Rutgers
There is obviously reason to wonder if Purdue will use the same game plan. Although Phinisee only recently returned from plantar fasciitis and still has sea legs, he torched the Boilermakers for 20 points in this match. Johnson was a struggling 3-point shooter at the time, but he’s gone 9-of-13 in his last three games and now ranks second over Indiana in 3-point field goal percentage (30) and 3 points (39.0). %). He’s also averaging 19.3 points and 5.0 assists in his last four games.
The Boilermakers had no trouble defending someone else the first time around. Trayce Jackson-Davis ran into foul trouble and finished with just one field goal in 12 minutes, struggling to defend Purdue’s 7-4 big man Zach Edey clear. Stewart and Miller Kopp scored two combined points on 0-of-5 shooting. If the Hoosiers have a chance of being upset, they may have to rely on Johnson and Phinisee again.
Follow Herald-Times IU Insider Dustin Dopirak on Twitter at @DustinDopirak or email him at [email protected]