Once again, Indiana let a prime opportunity slip through its grasp.
For the majority of Thursday night, Indiana (15-10) outplayed Purdue (20-5, 9-3). The Hoosiers led by four at halftime and seemed to have momentum. Indiana was taking care of the ball, making hustle plays and were winning the battle on the boards.
After Thomas Bryant nailed a three with 18:09 remaining in the second half, the Hoosiers found themselves up 39-32.
That’s when it all began to unravel. Over the next 4:46, the Hoosiers couldn’t find any rhythm, shooting 1-for-8 from the floor, turning the ball over three times. They were outscored 12-3 in that stretch.
Perhaps most costly for Indiana, at the 12:38 mark, De’Ron Davis took a massive hit to the face.
Here's the Haas play. Didn't appear to be anything nefarious here. https://t.co/XcclJJir4t
— Alex Bozich (@insidethehall) February 10, 2017
Play continued as Davis laid on the court in agony. 15 seconds after Davis was hit, Vincent Edwards nailed a three, giving Purdue a 44-42 lead. Finally, the officials signaled for a stoppage in play.
“Really, in all honesty, for that to not be anything — I mean, call the foul on De’Ron, right?” Crean told reporters after the game. “When you end up on the floor, something happened.”
Davis stayed on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the locker room by members of the IU staff.
Davis did not return to the game, and Crean said he will continue to be evaluated.
Even without Davis, Indiana still had plenty of chances to earn a marquee win. Thomas Bryant continued to hit shots inside, and Juwan Morgan looked as close to 100 percent as he has since suffering a left foot injury against Rutgers on Jan. 15.
Heading into the under-4 media timeout, the Hoosiers were even with Purdue at 57-57. All Indiana had to do was outscore the Boilermakers, and they would have their first win over a ranked team since November.
But egregious mistakes and foul trouble would cost Indiana any chance at a victory.
Trailing by two with 2:34 to play, Indiana forced Purdue’s Dakota Mathias into a difficult three, one that he would miss.
The Hoosiers couldn’t come up with the board. James Blackmon Jr., in his first game since the 30-point drubbing to Michigan, failed to box out P.J. Thompson. Thompson turned the rebound into an uncontested layup, giving the Boilers a four-point lead.
“I think that was my first offensive rebound of the year,” Thompson told reporters after the game (it was actually his 19th offensive board of the season). “Because Biggie, he grabs them all. It just felt like I was in the right place at the right time. I saw an opportunity to get the ball, and I was able to get it over (Blackmon) and hit the layup.”
From there, it only got worse. Less than 90 seconds later, with Indiana trailing by four, Morgan picked up his fifth foul.
On the ensuing offensive possession, with Indiana now down five, Thomas Bryant posted up Caleb Swanigan. Both were playing with four fouls, so when Bryant barreled over Swanigan and hit the bucket, all eyes were on the officials.
Official Lamont Simpson called a block, while Paul Szelc signaled a charge. The crew discussed the play at length before coming to the decision of a double-foul.
Tell you what. Just have the refs write down the final score, and tell the players to play to that. pic.twitter.com/WJCwYh4f3e
— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) February 10, 2017
Simpson defended the decision after the game to a pool reporter.
Referee Lamont Simpson on the double foul call: pic.twitter.com/5mjzo5YL6U
— Mike Miller (@MikeMillerHT) February 10, 2017
Whether it was a block or a charge is up for debate. The officials’ decision to rule the play a double-foul was, as Dick Vitale put it, a “cop-out.”
“Everyone saw it,” Caleb Swanigan said. “It just wasn’t a good call for either player. It takes us off the court and hurts the product of college basketball when you call calls like that.”
Indiana had possession following the officals’ ruling and was able to trim the deficit to three on a pair of Robert Johnson free throws with 38 seconds to play.
The points were too little, too late. Indiana, forced to play the foul game, was unable to claw back into the game.
Blackmon ineffective in his return
Blackmon struggled to find his shot in his return to action. The junior connected on only three of the 14 shots he attempted, including a 1-for-7 effort from behind the arc.
Although Blackmon claimed he was at “100 percent, if not close,” Purdue coach Matt Painter disagreed.
“Sometimes when you see him dribble into the three and shoot, you would think it’s a hurried shot,” Painter said. “But he makes those, and that’s his rhythm shot once he gets his legs under him and gets 100 percent healthy.”