WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The streak, Purdue coach Matt Painter said, didn't matter. He knew Saturday's game with Indiana would start at 0-0, and his Boilermakers, with a lot on the line, would need to deliver another standout performance.
Archie Miller knew the same thing. His struggling Hoosiers needed to play hard for 40 minutes to have a chance. He got that, but more shooting woes once again turned the tables for Indiana.
Because of that, Purdue won 67-58 at Mackey Arena on Saturday afternoon, sending the Boilermakers into the Big Ten Tournament with a double bye and Indiana still searching for answers after its fifth straight loss.
The nine-game winning streak by Purdue ties the longest streak in the history of the rivalry, going all the way back to the 1929-35 era when John Wooden was a player at Purdue for part of that time.
Purdue's defense was stifling. Indiana shot just 38 percent from the field and 21.7 from three, and a lot of those makes came late when Purdue was hanging on to a double-digit lead. Indiana only made five threes the entire game, and three of them came in the final four-plus minutes
"That just comes from preparation and hard work. I watch a lot of film and I feel like I know all their plays and all their calls,'' Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic said. "We know who to close out on, and when to do it. I thought we were pretty sound with that today.''
Purdue had a comfortable lead through most of the game, but the Hoosiers would never go away. Early on, Indiana took advantage of four Purdue turnovers to jump out to a 7-0 lead, but then they went nearly eight minutes without a field goal and Purdue was back in front quickly. The Boilermakers built the lead as high as 12 points late in the first half.
Indiana got within five late in the game, but couldn't get any closer. And, once again, Purdue was great from the line, making 12 of their final 14 free throw attempts.
Purdue was led by its freshmen. Backup center Zach Edey, all 7-foot-4 of him, had a team-high 20 points. Guard Jaden Ivey had 17 and was able to break down Indiana's defense with drives to the basket.
"He's done a great job of making good decisions these last few games,'' Stefanovic said of Edey, who also had 21 points in the win over Wisconsin on Tuesday. He had two dunks on lob passes that were unstoppable. "I hope people keep not scouting it, because it's working for us the past couple of games. That's the thing that he's really improved on, just catching the ball and putting it in.''
Purdue did a good job of holding down Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis. He had just 12 points, seven below his average, and only made four field goals
"We just wanted to limit his post touches to the best of our ability. He's a good player and we have a lot of respect for him,'' Painter said. "He took the fourth-most shots on their team today, and we'll take that.
Purdue also kept him off the boards. They outrebounded Indiana 37-24 and the Hoosiers didn't have a single offensive rebound in the second half, Jackson-Davis finished with just five rebounds.
"We outrebounded them by 13, and that kind of offset us turning the ball over too much,'' Painter sad. "We got 22 rebounds from three guys off our bench (Edey, Aaron Wheeler and Brandon Newman) and they had 24 as a team. That says a lot.''
Three-point shooting again was a huge problem for the Hoosiers. After going just 2-for-20 in a loss at Michigan State on Tuesday, Indiana started this game making just 1-of 15 from deep. Their second make though, from Trey Galloway, actually cut the lead to four at 35-31 with 14:27 left in the second half. It was the closest Indiana got.
The lead went to 10 again, then back down to five. Purdue's lead was still in single digits when Indiana's bench was slapped with a technical foul with 5:07 to go, which derailed some of their momentum. Miller was as confused as anyone, and never really got any clarification on the call from the officials.
Miller was pleased with his team's effort, and the fact that they fought to the finish two games in a row.
“I think we have played our two most hard fought games here in the last two,” Miller said after the game, also referring to Tuesday night's final-minutes loss to Michigan State. “If we keep doing that, we are going to find a way to break through, but at some point we have to make some open shots.”
Once again, Miller didn't have a problem with the looks Indiana was getting, just the result.
"Probably 11 of them were good looks,” Miller said of their 1-for-13 shooting from three in the first half. “You're not going to be able to win in this league if you're not shooting better than that."
In the past two games, Indiana has been just 7-of-43 shooting from deep, a measly 16.3 percent.
That's nine wins in a row now for Purdue against Indiana, dating all the way back to Feb 20, 2016. Even for the Boilermakers' freshmen, they understand how important that is. The rivalry is that important.
"It's great to get this win against a great Indiana team and take some momentum into the tournament,'' Ivey said. "We're in a great position now. It's hard to beat a team twice – (Purdue won 81-69 in Bloomington in January) – but it shows all the hard work we've put in. Everyone doubted us from the beginning, but we never gave in to that. ''
Ivey had nothing but praise for his fellow freshman Edey, the Toronto native who's only been playing organized basketball for three years.
"Zach played a great game. Each game, you see improvement from him,'' Ivey said. "He makes the right play for his teammates, and takes what they give him,'' Ivey said. "It's plain and simple. It's just hard work. Every day we work hard, even when the lights aren't on. You need to do that as a freshman. The confidence level that we have in ourselves and in each other really helps. We all feel like we can take over games and make plays. ''
Painter played nine guys, and got production from all of them. That's how good this team has become, from top to bottom.
"That's what a good team's all about, getting guys to come off the bench and make plays,'' he said. "We're getting that from Zach. Aaron's been good the last four games for us, too.''
All that hard work is paying off, especially with the young kids like Edey.
"He stays after practice and puts in extra time,'' Painter said. "He's done that, and he's gotten better. Zach gives us a good low-post threat. I'm excited about them. They've been productive and they keep getting better.''
Purdue is now 18-8 on the season and finishes with a 13-6 record in the Big Ten, which will probably get them the No. 4 seed and a double-bye in the conference tournament next week.
Indiana is now 12-14 on the season and 7-12 in the league. The Hoosiers had four players in double figures, Al Durham with 14, Jackson-Davis and Jerome Hunter with 12 and Rob Phinisee with 10.
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