Purdue proved once again which Indiana-based university was superior on the basketball court, handedly defeating the Hoosiers 74-62 on Saturday.
Indiana (15-8, 5-7 Big Ten) raised the emotional stakes of the game by featuring the return of legendary former Indiana head coach Bob Knight at halftime. The halftime ceremony served as a large break in the tone of the game, but the Boilermakers (14-10, 7-6) paid no attention to the theatrics.
“It wasn’t something we talked about,” head coach Matt Painter said. “I thought it was irrelevant.”
Junior center Matt Haarms echoed that sentiment.
“Whatever happens at halftime doesn’t matter to me,” Haarms said. “We knew we were gonna come out ahead.”
Painter was recruited by Knight when he played, but ended up playing for Gene Keady, the former Purdue coach who was also in attendance.
Assembly Hall found little motivation to get any louder than they were at halftime − Purdue led for most of the game and stifled any offensive opportunities the Hoosiers had. While the game was close for most of the first half, Purdue pulled ahead with a 12-0 run to end the half, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by sophomore guard Aaron Wheeler.
Wheeler, who only made three shots in the past 10 games, finished the game with three baskets from beyond the arc and 11 total points.
“He’s a guy that played a really good role for us off the bench last year, and helped us win a Big Ten title, and you wanna make that next step,” Painter said. “It just hasn’t worked for him shooting the basketball this year, so for him to have one the other night against Iowa was great, and making three (on Saturday), that was a huge lift for our team.
“He’s a quality player, a quality shooter. His numbers don’t say so, but over the course of time, the course of his career, he’ll get this turned around.”
Defensively, the Boilermakers kept the Hoosiers at bay, utilizing senior forward Evan Boudreaux.
“When he subbed back in (during) the second half, he did a great job of doubling the post,” Painter said. “We weren’t quick to it before that, we were missing some simple post-ups that they were getting. We wanted to double every time those guys got in the post, especially (freshman forward) Trayce Jackson-Davis.”
Boudreaux not only locked down the paint on defense, but served as a vital piece for the Boilermakers offensively in the final minutes as well.
“His two offensive rebounds were huge,” Painter said. “That pushed the game away.”
Purdue had only two road wins coming into this game, and playing in an environment such as Assembly Hall is never easy for a visiting team to do. Compared to last year though, Haarms thought the crowd was fairly tame.
“It was tougher last year,” Haarms said. “Last year, they were saying some stuff.”
Haarms faced a barrage of verbal abuse in last season’s game at Assembly Hall, and even had food thrown at him at some points. He made the final shot to win that game.
“I think it’s a different type of tough when you go different places,” sophomore guard Eric Hunter Jr. said. “Our place is just loud. This place is loud, and you hear some individual stuff too, some individual comments that you just gotta block out, and we did that today so we got a win.”
Hunter finished the game with 12 points and two assists.
As their third road win of the season, this game was a confidence boost for the Boilers.
“It definitely helps when we shoot well on the road,” Wheeler said. “It was good for us to play ahead; we’re a really dangerous team when we have the lead, and we definitely can be successful (on the road).”