WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Joey Brunk and his bad back could do nothing but watch from the Indiana bench as 7-foot-4 Purdue freshman Zach Edey scored on one lob pass after another.
Armaan Franklin and his bad left ankle and even worse right foot could only stand next to Brunk and shake his head as Purdue freshman guard Jaden Ivey blew past one Indiana guard after another on his way to an easy basket at the rim.
Race Thompson and his protective mask tried to give it a go after getting smashed in the face several times in the past week and even requiring a minor surgical procedure. He fought and batted, and even took a VERY cheap shot from Purdue Mason Gillis, but then his day was cut short early when he limped off with an apparent ankle injury and did not return at full strength.
Running out of bodies, running out of time.
This is in no way trying to make an excuse for Indiana's 67-58 loss to Purdue on Saturday at Mackey Arena, but it is purely fact, too. For most of 40 minutes on Saturday, the five players that Purdue had on the floor were better than Indiana's five.
And that's bad news, both on Saturday and in the future.
Indiana lost for the fifth straight time, and once again it had everything to do with its complete inability to shoot the ball. After going 2-for-20 from three in a loss to Michigan State on Tuesday, Indiana was just 5-for-23 against Purdue, and three of those came in the final four-plus minutes when the outcome was already obvious.
It's been hard. It's been frustrating.
And most sadly of all, it's simply been Indiana basketball.
"It's been a rough five games. Three of the five we've been in to win and we've dropped them,'' said Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had 12 points, seven below his season average. "But going into the Big Ten Tournament, we've just got to reset our batteries and get locked back in and have a good week of practice going into it. That's what we've got to focus on.''
The Hoosiers are dazed right now. And it's "days'' that have a lot to do with it.
- Indiana has now lost five straight games, with its last win coming on Feb. 17 against Minnesota at Assembly Hall. That was 17 days ago.
- Indiana has now lost nine games in a row to Purdue, dating back to Feb. 20, 2016 when Tom Crean's Hoosiers beat the Boilers in Bloomington. That was 1,841 days ago. Archie Miller is 0-7 vs. Matt Painter now.
- Indiana has now lost five straight games in Mackey Arena, and hasn't won here since Jan. 30, 2013, when Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers crushed Purdue 97-60. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time. That was 2,955 days ago. Indiana freshman guard Khristian Lander was 10 years old.
That's a lot to be mad about. And they are mad, because despite all of their flaws, especially on the offensive end, Indiana has played hard for 40 minutes twice this week. They want to win, desperately want to win, and they've had nothing to show for it for a while now.
"I know a lot of my teammates are angry right now, but we've just got to put the past behind us and keep pushing forward, mo matter the obstacles that we're going to face,'' Jackson-Davis said. "I'll talk to my teammates and get them together, maybe do something to get our minds off of it, then reset tomorrow or whenever practice is next.''
There is, quite frankly, no way that Indiana can win games if it doesn't get anything out of its perimeter game. It's been horrible lately. It looks bad on the stat sheet, but it's even worse on the eye test.
On at least three occasions Saturday at Mackey, Indiana shooters got open looks from three – and didn't even hit the rim. I really wish I would have kept track of airballs this season, because I'd be willing to bet my last nickel that Indiana leads the nation in wildly errant shots that don't hit anything.
Purdue is a very good defensive team, and the Boilermakers are also very well prepared when it comes to playing Indiana. Purdue center Trevion Williams said that Indiana "is easy to guard'' and Boilers guard Sasha Stefanovic said he "knows all their plays and all their calls.'' He knows Indiana's offense as well as they do.
That makes it really tough to run stuff, especially when there's very little variety to Indiana's sets.
That's why you shoot 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from three. That's why you make poor decisions once you've battled back into the game, putting up bad shots that lead to another run.
Scoring is hard in the Big Ten. And it makes Indiana look bad.
"I really just think it's the caliber of the Big Ten. It's a great conference. I think it's the best conference in the country,'' Jackson-Davis said. "When you get in the Big Ten, you're being scouted, you're being doubled, you have all these coaches who already know the way you play. It's much harder to run your sets and get into things.''
We've seen this story far too long with Indiana now, this season and throughout several years of this rivalry with Purdue. The Boilers own it now – and they look like they'll own it for a while. Their two best players on Saturday were the two true freshmen, Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey.
Edey had 20 points and was hard to guard, especially with Indiana running out of bodies up front. When Thompson was out, Trey Galloway (6-foot-4) and Jordan Geronimo (6-foot-5) were forced to guard him.
"He's 7-4 and 300 pounds, he's a really big guy and he buries himself in the paint,'' Jackson-Davis said of Edey. "He really walls up well, and if he's not 8-10 feet out, he's hard to guard. We had a big emphasis on pushing him out of the blocks, but toward the end, they called a lot of touch fouls on me and I couldn't play as physical down the stretch.''
The sad truth now is that Purdue is the better team in this rivalry, and it's not even close. What hurts even worse is that we thought at the beginning of the year that Indiana would finish higher in the standings than Purdue would.
But Purdue's players have gotten better all season long, and they are the No. 4 team in the Big Ten for good reason.
And sadly, there's a good reason why Indiana is the No. 10 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament. They're just not very good, especially as banged up as they are right now. And, let's be honest, they haven't gotten better over time. Watching Purdue's young kids and watching Indiana's, it's like night and day.
Indiana has lost five straight games for a reason. And now, yes, they have to hit that reset button if they're going to do anything in the Big Ten Tournament.
Are you holding your breath?
Related stories on Indiana basketball
- GAME STORY: Purdue's two true freshmen, Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey, led the way as Indiana lost to the Boilers for the ninth straight time against Indiana. CLICK HERE
- CLISBY'S DEATH JOLTS FISCHER: Indiana radio legend Don Fischer is saddened by the death of long-time Purdue radio voice Larry Clisby CLICK HERE
- INDIANA SCHEDULE: Here is the full Indiana men's basketball schedule for the season, along with links to every game story and Tom Brew column throughout the year. CLICK HERE