GameDay Preview: Can Archie Miller Finally Break the Matt Painter Curse?

Tom Brew

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Archie Miller has done some good things at Indiana during his three seasons, but one thing he hasn't been able to accomplish yet is beat Purdue. He  gets another chance Thursday night at Mackey Arena.

Miller is 0-4 so far against Matt Painter, with three of the losses coming in Bloomington. Their one meeting in West Lafayette, last year on Jan. 19, ended in a 70-55 loss to the Boilers.

Can the Hoosiers finally turn that around? Purdue has been mostly good at Mackey Arena this year, but they haven't been perfect. And since the two teams got together in Bloomington on Feb, 8, they've been heading in opposite directions. Indiana is 3-1, with wins over ranked teams Iowa and Penn State, and Purdue has hit the skids, losing four games in a row, inlcuding two at home against Penn State and Michigan. 

Here are the particulars on the game:

  • Who: Indiana Hoosiers (18-9, 8-8 in the Big Ten) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (14-14, 7-10 in the Big Ten
  • When: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, Feb. 27
  • Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Latest Line: Purdue is a 6-point favorite as of Thursday morning, according to VegasInsiders.com. Purdue had opened as a 7-point favorite. 
  • Poll rankings: Neither team is ranked, or even receiving votes in either the Associated Press or Coaches polls.
  • Kenpom.com rankings: Purdue is No. 26, Indiana is No. 36
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Announcers: Tim Brando and Steve Lavin
  • Radio: Indiana Radio Network
  • Announcers: Don Fischer, Eric Suhr, Joe Smith

Here are three things I want to see from Indiana on Thursday against Purdue:

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Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis (4) has been on fire the past couple of weeks for the Hoosiers. (USA TODAY Sports)

1. Keep Trayce Jackson-Davis as the focus on offense

Indiana has bounced back nicely from that 74-62 loss to Purdue on Feb. 8, the day Bob Knight returned to Assembly Hall for the first time in 20 years. The reason for that turnaround has been because freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has been dominant. He's been the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the past two weeks.

There's been more of a focus to get him the ball inside, but Jackson-Davis also has picked up his game as well. He's been much more active in getting the ball in different spots in the Indiana offense, and he's been a beast on the boards. He had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the win at Minnesota and had 13 and 10 in Sunday's victory over No. 9 Penn State. He needs to stay involved for the Hoosiers to get a win at Mackey, a place where they haven't won since 2013.

2. Don't let Purdue's perimeter shooters get going 

It's not rare that Purdue would shoot better at home than on the road; it's something of a given throughout the sport. But the home/road numbers for the Boilermakers, especially beyond the three-point line, are really disparate. They shoot 40 percent at home and only 27 percent on the road.

Purdue has literally run some very good teams —Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa — right out the gym by tossing in a bunch of three-pointers in a hurry. That's why those three teams, all highly ranked at the time they visited Mackey, went down by 29, 29 and 36 points. Complete blowouts. Indiana has to keep those shooters in check, especially early. Sasha Stefanovic, who can be a crazy-hot streaky shooter, can be allowed to get good looks.

"In our (first) game, especially in the first half, those first 10 minutes, I think they made five threes. Aaron Wheeler made three. Eric Hunter made two. Those are big shots, and gave them a lot of confidence on the road.

"When we've been good, if you just look at us, we've defended the three-point line pretty well, whether that was Penn State or whether that was Minnesota or even Iowa, a good three-point shooting team. We have done a good job of handling the line with our ball pressure and being where we're supposed to be and also being detailed on cutters and who certain guys are.''

"Purdue is as good as it gets in terms of picking on you with their motion, their screening, their cutting, and they also mix in their action in what they do and try to get you there. But without question, just going to have to play a lot harder than we did in the first game.''

3. Don't let the raucous Mackey crowd take over 

Mackey Arena has been sold out every game this season, and this place can get loud. It is, in my opinion, the loudest arena in the Big Ten, and it can literally shake a team.

Indiana got a huge win on the road at Minnesota on Feb. 19, and that's a tough place to play, too. Other than a win at Nebraska, the Hoosiers have otherwise been horrible on the road. They're prone to dropping their heads and losing their energy level when things get tough, and that can't happen Thursday night. They need to stay engaged for 40 minutes. There's a huge prize at the end. A win at Mackey would likely sew up an NCAA tournament bid.

To do that, Indiana can't get buried early. They need to get good shots, especially inside, and they need a good game from streaky shooter Devonte Green. The senior — along with classmate DeRon Davis — has never beaten Purdue either. His shot selection has to be on point. If he can hit some bigshots, he might be able to silence that Mackey Arena crowd. 

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Indiana's Devonte Green (11) shoots over Purdue's Trevion Williams during the Feb. 8 game at Assembly Hall. (USA TODAY Sports)
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