BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It was a time for tears, cheers, laughs and, yes, defensive demands.
After 20 years, Bob Knight was back in Assembly Hall.
The Cream ‘n Crimson problem — Indiana’s winning ways didn’t return with him.
The Hoosiers lost their fourth straight game — and second straight at home — with their 74-62 Saturday afternoon defeat to Purdue.
“They played hard,” IU swingman Jerome Hunter said. “We played hard, too. They played harder this game. We have to find a way to come back from it.”
On Saturday, turnovers once again ruined momentum. Defensive breakdowns squandered opportunity. Offensive inefficiency — including twice missing a wide-open Race Thompson under the basket during a crucial second-half possession — crushed hopes.
All that was left was to wonder about what might have been.
“I’m disappointed for our players,” coach Archie Miller said. “I’m disappointed for our fans. I’m disappointed for everyone that came back for the reunion. And I’ll take full responsibility on the loss.”
IU has lost six straight to Purdue, including four straight at Assembly Hall.
“I don’t think it was an effort standpoint,” forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “We played hard. We knew what was at stake, especially against a rival opponent. I don’t think it was a question of playing hard. I think it was mental lapses, leaving shooters open.”
A season rich in promise just a few weeks ago — see the upset win over Michigan State that had Indiana at 15-4 and on the cusp of a national ranking — has lost its luster.
IU is 15-8 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten. The grueling conference run continues with Thursday night’s home game against No. 17 Iowa.
“You’re only as good as the next one,” Miller said. “Today, as disappointing as it is, you have to find a way to be about the right things over the next three to four days to give yourself a chance against another great team.
“One way or another, you have to earn the right to break through. We’ve got to find a way to do that.”
IU had its chances, but the Boilers’ 14-0 run to end the first half and start the second gave them control they never lost, although the Hoosiers’ mini second-half rally briefly offered hope.
“It was about having some poise, continuing to execute, continuing to play hard and try to limit them as much as we could,” Boiler coach Matt Painter said. “Not let them get into a rhythm.”
Purdue (14-10, 7-6) scored 17 points off the Hoosiers’ 14 turnovers, crucial in a game in which each possession meant so much.
“There was one segment in the first half where we had five turnovers in a four-minute segment,” Jackson-Davis said. “That’s a big thing. After we get one, we start stringing them together. We’ve got to keep our composure and play through that.”
Jackson-Davis led IU with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Hunter added 10 points, his second double-figure effort in three games.
The Hoosiers, one of the Big Ten’s best rebounding teams, were out-rebounded for the second straight game, 29-28.
“We’re not rebounding at all right now,” Miller said. “Our offensive rebounding is nonexistent.
“Why? I don’t know other that concentration and effort level on Purdue’s part. At one point it was a strength of ours. Now, it’s not.”
In so many ways, the game was a side story to the main event — Knight’s emotional return to a place he had dominated for 29 seasons, winning 662 games, 11 Big Ten championships and three national titles.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see something like this again in college basketball,” former player Randy Wittman said. “Coach Knight was back where he belongs.”
Still, it was a day for Hoosier big names not named Robert Montgomery Knight.
There was the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Big Ten title team, with Wittman, Isiah Thomas and Mike Woodson among those making appearances.
There were the 49 former Knight players from the 1970s to the 1990s who attended the halftime ceremony.
It was a day for businessman, investor, Dallas Mavericks owner and IU alum Mark Cuban (IU’s Mark Cuban Center is named after him), as well as ESPN broadcasters Dick Vitale and Sage Steele (also an Indiana alum).
Everything was set for a nationally televised victory to energize the Hoosiers’ NCAA tourney return quest — except a winning performance.
Not even a pre-game talk from Knight could help.
“He told us to play hard, which I thought we did,” Jackson-Davis said. “It’s just not the outcome we wanted. But he’s a legend. He’s the reason why people talk about IU basketball.”
IU opened on the inside attack, drawing fouls and getting the to line.
Purdue responded by continuing its three-point sharpshooting from three days earlier against Iowa (when it made 19) by hitting its first three long-range shots.
The Hoosiers countered with three-pointers from Devonte Green and Hunter to edge ahead 13-11.
Purdue pushed ahead 21-17. Indiana pushed back to take a 28-25 lead on a Green layup and a pair of Jackson-Davis free throws.
Purdue scored the final 12 points of the half to take a 37-28 lead.
The Boilers built second-half leads as large as 16 points before the Hoosiers fought their way back.
With nine minutes left, Indiana closed to 56-50, then lost its offense, and then the game.
“We had our opportunities,” Miller said.
In the aftermath, Miller pushed perspective. A game was lost. A season didn’t have to be.
“It’s not about the doom and gloom,” Miller said. “Yeah, it stinks and you’re really disappointed and it makes you sick, but the doom and the gloom’s got to go away as soon as possible because the next one is coming right down the line. And that’s a great opportunity as well against Iowa.
“That’s what’s going to be the separator of our team and the rest of the teams in the league is who continues to find a way to just plug along, play through it and find a way.
“We need some guys to respond on Thursday.”