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For Purdue's Sasha Stefanovic, It's One Last Trip to Assembly Hall, Home Away From Home

Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic loves playing at Indiana's Assembly Hall, and calls it his favorite arena to play in outside of Mackey Arena. Part of that might have to do with winning there every time, and he gets another chance on Thursday night when the rivals get together one more time.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For the past four years, every time Sasha Stefanovic has gone to Assembly Hall, he's come home with a smile — and a victory. His Purdue Boilermakers are a perfect 4-0 there during his career, and they've won nine games in a row in the series, dating all the way back to 2016.

As an Indiana kid growing up in Crown Point in Northwest Indiana, he's lived this rivalry for a long time, and it's been very special to be a part of it as a player. 

"It's unbelievable. Growing up in Indiana, you see the Indiana-Purdue games every single year and the intensity that it brings,'' Stefanovic said Tuesday night during his Sasha Live! Podcast on BoilermakersCountry.com. "The fans are really into it and the great universities that are a part of it, it makes it great. To be a part of it for five years is unbelievable, because you always wished for that growing up. 

"Any time that you're able to go into Assembly Hall and play, and see that environment and those fans and how they are going to get after us, it's everything that a college basketball rivalry should be, and I'm really glad to be a part of it.'' 

He's also glad to be on the winning side of it. Purdue has actually won five straight games at Assembly Hall, one the year before he got to Purdue, one as a freshman while he was redshirting and three in the past three years, the last two by double-digits.

Since Thursday night's trip to Bloomington is probably his last one, he'd like to keep that streak intact. But he also knows that this Indiana team is better than what they've seen lately, and they are certainly better coaches now that Mike Woodson has replaced Archie Miller, who went 0-7 against Purdue during his four years at Indiana, and those failures were among the biggest reasons why he was fired.

Stefanovic watches a lot of Indiana basketball, and he knows they're better.

"First and foremost, they just added a lot of talent around Trayce Jackson-Davis and added a lot of shooting ability,'' Stefanovic said. "They can really make shots. The other guys on the team have elevated their talent and skills. Jordan Geronimo and (Trey) Galloway, they've really stepped up their games, especially lately.

"I'm always watching a lot of Big Ten basketball and Indiana basketball, and they've improved a lot offensively. They've always been good defensively, but they do more on the offensive end now.''

Stefanovic has battled with Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp for three years, and they'll see plenty of each other on Thursday night too. Kopp has started all 17 games for the Hoosiers and added a lot of perimeter shooting, along with Parker Stewart

"I have a lot of respect for Miller Kopp and how he plays the game,'' Stefanovic said. "I had a lot of respect for him when he was at Northwestern and I was a big fan of his. He's great and I'm looking forward to that challenge of playing him again.

"It's different to see him on that team now. When he went to Indiana, I sent him a message when he decided to go there and I wished him luck. It's going to be great to see him and play him again.''

Stefanovic and the Boilers beat Indiana last year during COVID, with no fans in the stands. That won't be the case Thursday night. Assembly Hall will be fun, and will be loud.

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And he's cool with that. He loves the environment.

"

Any time you go on the road in the Big Ten environment in general, you know it's going to be a tough game,'' he said. "And when you add it that it's your biggest rival, it's rough. It's a huge game for both programs. It's very tough, and it's a lot like the Illinois game we just had (on Monday, a double-overtime win).

"I think it helps from a preparation standpoint. It's hard, especially on the road, because it gets loud and it's hard to make runs. But we did a good job of staying composed and taking their punches and fighting back.

"You know it's going to be loud and a crazy environment. You just have to

"It's probably my other favorite arena to play in other than Mackey. With fans there, it's just so crazy. It's like a wave of people coming at you. It's always packed, always sold out. I love that style of arena, especially behind the backboard with the bleachers, it's got the feel of a big high school arena.''

Beating Indiana always matters. It always has, and always will.

"Every year, we write down team goals and what we want to do, and top of the list is win the Big Ten, win the Big Ten Tournament, get to a Final Four and win a national title,'' Stefanovic said. "Right underneath that is beating Indiana twice. It's a huge game. It's circled on a lot of people's calendars.

"I've been so fortunate to be a part of it, and it's really exciting. I know they're going to be amped for it, but we are too. You have unbelievable players in the game. You have an All-American in Trayce Jackson-Davis and we have some great players too. You want to be able to watch that. It's going to be exciting and there are going to be a lot of people watching it.''

Stefanovic has a lot of wonderful memories of the rivalry during his career, so picking a favorite isn't easy.

"My favorite moment is probably a lot of other people's favorite moments too, that year I was redshirting (in 2018) and Carsen Edwards was able to dunk that one in transition.

"I was sitting baseline that year with Aaron (Wheeler), who was redshirting, too. We both almost got a technical foul because Aaron ran all the way out to the rim and was practically tackling Carsen. Coach Painter ran down and told us to back up. Carsen was so awesome in those years, and it was cool to see that dunk in person.

  • HOW TO WATCH: Purdue is back on the road for the third time in four games, tipping off against rival Indiana on Thursday night. The Boilermakers have won the last nine games against the Hoosiers. Here's how to watch, with gametime and TV information, the latest on the point spread and more. CLICK HERE
  • PURDUE LOOKS TO CONTINUE RIVALRY WIN STREAK: Purdue basketball looks to build on its nine-game win streak against Indiana in a road matchup Thursday at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are an undefeated 11-0 on their home court this season. CLICK HERE
  • PURDUE HANDS ILLINOIS FIRST BIG TEN LOSS: Senior guard Sasha Stefanovic scored made five 3-pointers and scored 22 points while leading Purdue to a double-overtime victory over Illinois on the road. Sophomore center Zach Edey notched 20 points and didn't turn the ball over in the win. CLICK HERE
  • EDEY, WILLIAMS OUTPLAY COCKBURN: Purdue sophomore center Zach Edey scored 20 points in the team's 96-88 double-overtime victory over Illinois. He and senior forward Trevion Williams held Kofi Cockburn to 10 points and five rebounds before the Fighting Illini center fouled out. CLICK HERE
  • TREVION WILLIAMS ON WHY HE CAME BACK: Purdue forward Trevion Williams joined the Sasha Live! last week and senior spoke about his experiences testing the NBA waters and his decision to return to a Boilermakers program that he believes is building something special this season. CLICK HERE