Indiana basketball falls to Purdue 87-66 in a disappointing display at Assembly Hall

  • 01/17/2024 7:38 am in

The band was playing at top volume. The cheerleaders were throwing stunts and yelling cheers on the court. The fans were leaving Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Was it the final minutes of Tuesday night’s game, or was it halftime?

It was both.

Fans showed up late and left early — and Indiana basketball did the same.

Due to frigid weather conditions, Assembly Hall wasn’t filled until the final few minutes before tip-off, bringing about an atypical pregame environment for a rivalry game like Indiana versus Purdue. Once the game started, however, the fans assumed their normal roles, yelling and cheering as the in-state foes battled it out. But the cheers didn’t last long.

Purdue seized the lead less than four minutes into the first half and never gave it up, taking down Indiana 87-66 and walking out of Assembly Hall with a win for the first time since January 14, 2021.

It was a sobering loss for the Hoosiers, one they didn’t think would occur like it did. One of the most well-known rivalries in college basketball is supposed to provide excitement and entertainment. For the last few years, it did. But that can only happen when both teams come ready to compete.

Indiana didn’t truly show up until the team ran out onto the court for the beginning of the second half, and at that point, it was too late. The Hoosiers trailed 51-29, had players in foul trouble, couldn’t find an answer for Zach Edey and could barely create any offense of their own.

“We got smacked in the first half,” Woodson said. “I thought they were more tougher.”

Early whistles against Indiana set the tone for the half, sending Purdue to the foul line and inciting a feeling of frustration that would only grow for the Hoosiers and their fans. By the time halftime rolled around, Indiana had 11 personal fouls to Purdue’s five.

For Woodson, though, the most significant differences in the first half were Indiana’s inability to make shots and defend Edey, who finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds to lead both teams in both categories.

“We couldn’t get to Edey quick enough,” he said. “I’ve got to get my two big guys a little more tough. That’ll help. I didn’t think (Kel’el) Ware played tough enough, and Edey kind of had his way.”

Ware finished his night with five points and six rebounds, but five rebounds and all five of his points came in the second half. He only played eight minutes in the first half due to two early fouls and an “auto-bench” from Woodson. A similar situation occurred with Mackenzie Mgbako; after scoring seven straight points to start the first half, he went to the bench with two fouls and only came back into the game in the final minutes of the half.

“When I think back to it, I probably should have brought him back a lot sooner, but I didn’t,” Woodson said about Mgbako.

Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, it was one of many things that they will look back on with a sour taste in their mouth.

Take the start of the second half, for instance. The Hoosiers looked like they wanted to play and win for the first eight minutes after they came out of the locker room. Gabe Cupps hit a jump shot, and Trey Galloway hit two 3-pointers in a row right away. Thanks to additional scoring from Mgbako, Indiana cut the deficit to nine points with just over 12 minutes left.

Galloway and Cupps were playing all out, and it looked like Indiana might almost have a chance to turn the tide on the Boilermakers.

But as quickly as Indiana was able to seize the momentum and rally Assembly Hall back to life, Purdue re-found its groove and started tearing down Indiana’s defense, just like it did in the first half.

“At the end of the day, just going out there, competing and finding ways to get stops, that’s the biggest thing and we didn’t do that,” Galloway said. “We just didn’t have that next gear to really keep going.”

If there’s been a theme to Indiana’s losses this season, it’s just that: lack of toughness, lack of pressure, lack of that next level of play. What you see is what you get with Indiana basketball. So when you see a team that isn’t comfortable shooting 3-pointers, struggles making free throws and can’t maintain solid defensive pressure, you’re seeing a floundering Indiana basketball team.

The time for wake-up calls has come and gone. Blowout losses are no longer wake-up calls; they are simply losses. But the Hoosiers still see them as learning opportunities, and their “on to the next game” mentality is still conveyed. Only time will tell, though, how much they can truly adjust and bounce back from a loss like Tuesday’s.

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