In a tale of two halves, Indiana hangs on for win against No. 1 Purdue

  • 02/04/2023 8:16 pm in

As is the case with any good rivalry game, Saturday’s Indiana-Purdue matchup was highly anticipated. Tickets were highly sought after – and highly-priced – and the entire town of Bloomington was waiting anxiously for what they hoped would be a good, competitive game.

And was it ever. Indiana’s 79-74 victory was filled to the brim with tension and excitement.

The pre-game pyrotechnics on the floor of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall set the tone for the first half; the Hoosiers came out red hot, with fire in their hearts and their eyes.

Trayce Jackson-Davis essentially carried the load for Indiana in the first half, scoring 18 points and grabbing six rebounds to lead the team. He recorded two blocked shots, the first coming within the first three minutes of the game, in the midst of a series of fortunate events for Indiana.

As the Boilermakers struggled to find — and hit — shots, the Hoosiers played some of their best basketball of the entire year in those first 20 minutes. Their defense was disruptive, their offense was firing on all cylinders and everyone was hustling on every play.

“I thought we played extremely well the first half,” Mike Woodson said postgame. “From the start to the end of that half, our defense was really, really good.”

Purdue had no answers for Jackson-Davis. With Indiana’s defense able to lock down Zach Edey — relatively, as he still put up 15 points — everything seemed to be going Indiana’s way. The rest of the Boilermakers seemed to pose only minor threats, fighting against an Indiana team that played like it had more than just five players on the floor.

And in a way, the Hoosiers did in fact have a sixth man with them at all times: the crowd.

“We fed off of that, especially in the first half,” Jackson-Davis said. “That was the most electric crowd I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here.”

The raucous Hoosier faithful, some of whom had been lined up since before sunrise, didn’t stop standing, cheering or booing, when necessary. They fueled the fire within the Hoosiers, helping them establish a double-digit lead for the last 12 minutes of the first half.

Entering halftime, Purdue trailed 50-35 with 11 turnovers. Before Saturday, the Boilermakers averaged 10.7 turnovers per game and only allowed 60 points per game. It was one of the most impressive feats Indiana basketball has accomplished this season.

But all good things must come to an end, and so Indiana’s top-notch basketball reappeared only in bursts in the second half. Purdue came out with a clear plan of feeding Edey and forcing Indiana to guard him more.

The Hoosiers’ intensity seemed to waver as the Boilermakers quickly found a rhythm on the offensive end of the court, and Indiana’s own offense struggled as well, unable to create quality possessions or solidly drive to the rim.

Purdue and Edey simply outplayed Indiana, bringing the score within one or two possessions for almost the entirety of the last five minutes of the second half. And yet, in what could have easily been the script of a movie, a hero was waiting to come through for Indiana.

The hero was coming off a lackluster performance, asked for the ball in the final minutes of the game and even wore his jersey like a cape in the post-game press conference. That hero, of course, was Jalen Hood-Schifino.

“He asked for the ball coming down the stretch, and I drew up two plays to get it to him, and he delivered,” Woodson said.

Hood-Schifino scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, playing the entire 20 minutes and leaving everything out on the floor. Indiana was able to recover and make key plays down the stretch, getting defensive stops and doing exactly what needed to be done.

“It lets me know we’re ticking, as a team,” Woodson said. “We didn’t cave.”

No one on Indiana gave up at any point in the game; every single Hoosier stepped up in one way or another.

That, ultimately, is what won the game. Indiana’s ability to play clean, high-level basketball in the first half set up the chance for a statement win. Indiana’s toughness and spirit secured that win over its top-ranked rival.

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