WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The unwanted streak continues, and you’d better believe Indiana is ticked.
Losing nine straight to rival Purdue, and five straight overall, has the Hoosiers seeing red that has nothing to do with their Crimson school color scheme.
“A lot of my teammates are angry,” forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said in the aftermath of Saturday’s 67-58 loss at Mackey Arena. “I’m going to talk to them. We have to keep pushing forward no matter the obstacles. Try to get them to get their minds off of this. Let’s reset and go for the next practice.”
A season that began with plenty of postseason optimism has crashed hard. IU is 12-14 overall, 7-12 in the Big Ten.
“It’s been a tough five games,” Jackson-Davis said. “Three of the five we’ve (had a chance to win at the end).”
Specifically, Indiana lost by seven and six points to Michigan State, and by nine to No. 23 Purdue (18-8, 13-6) down the stretch.
The Hoosiers will open Big Ten Tourney play on Thursday at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We’re going to have to reset our batteries, lock in and have a good week of practice,” Jackson-Davis said.
Hope comes down to this key basketball element:
Case in point – 3-pointers.
IU was 1-for-13 in the first half, making it 3-for-33 in its last 60 minutes of basketball.
The Hoosiers did go 4-for-10 in the second half, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
“We’re not shooting well from the perimeter,” coach Archie Miller said. ” You can’t win in this league without shooting a little bit.”
Long-range shooting has been a season-long problem IU can’t solve even with plenty of open looks.
“In the first half we were 1-for-13 from three,” Miller said, “and 11 of those were good looks. If we make two or three, it makes a big difference.”
Guard Aljami Durham led Indiana’s four double-figure scorers with 14 points. Guard Rob Phinisee had 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
No way forward Race Thompson was missing this game. A broken nose, and then a follow-up medical procedure after taking another shot a few days earlier against Michigan State — preventing him from practicing — couldn’t keep him out of the starting lineup.
He made an impact until rolling an ankle in the second half. He briefly returned, but finally had to come out. He finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.
“He gave it a go,” Miller said. “He has given us everything he has.”
IU never found an answer for a pair of Purdue freshmen — 7-4 center Zach Edey and guard Jaden Ivey.
Edey had 20 points and nine rebounds. Ivey had 17 points.
“Edey is very difficult to deal with,” Miller said. “He’s hard to guard.”
Still, the Hoosier defense made an impact by forcing 16 Boiler turnovers.
“We were smarter today,” Miller said. “Our defense has come back the last three to four games. We did a good job of playing hard and smart.”
Offensive struggles continue. IU has scored 57, 58 and 58 points in its last three games.
“Offensively, we need to get smarter,” Miller said. “We have to figure out how we can do things. We have to keep teaching.
“We’re getting stops, but when we get stops, and don’t score, at some point, you cave in. To our guys’ credit, we haven’t caved in.”
Thompson, Jackson-Davis and Phinisee scored to open the game. Add tenacious defense that forced Purdue to start 0-for-4 from the field with four turnovers and you had a 7-0 Hoosier start.
Enter the 7-4 Edey and the Boilers went on a 13-2 run to flip the momentum. The Hoosiers went nearly eight minutes without making a field goal. A 4-for-8 shooting start crashed against a 2-for-15 follow-up.
Purdue’s inside-outside attack built a 28-16 lead before IU made it 29-20 at halftime.
IU’s 3-for-6 early second-half shooting, combined with four Purdue turnovers, kept it within range, down 33-26.
Hoosier freshman guard Trey Galloway broke out of a shooting slump by hitting a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four, at 35-31.
Purdue surged again for a 12-point lead. The Hoosiers finally began to hit some 3-pointers. Durham hit one. Jerome Hunter had another.
It was enough to avoid a blowout, but not a defeat. It followed a 64-58 at Michigan State four days earlier.
“We’ve played two of our hardest fought games this week,” Miller said. We keep that going and we’ll find a way to break through.”
“At some point, we have to make some shots.”