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Ben Smith

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Trap game? Purdue caught in IU’s snare

– So there went the storyline, stolen by Victor Oladipo. Shot down by Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Schooled in the paint by that estimable PhD of post-up-ology, Cody Zeller.

The storyline was that, silly as it sounded, Wednesday could be a trap game for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ week began with No. 13 Michigan State, it would end with No. 1 Michigan – and, in between, they’d go to barely-above-the-waterline Purdue. So, a trap game, even if it was an old and implacable rival waiting in the kettle-drum din of Mackey Arena.

Yeah, right. Leg trap was more like it.

A leg trap, that’s what 97-60 was, because at the end of it, the Boilermakers were caught fast, and Mackey Arena – which brought down the thunder as always until it became apparent that it fazed Indiana not at all – was reduced to defiant falsehood. “Indiana (bleeps)” came rolling down from the shadows with nine or so minutes to play, and, well, that might have stung if Purdue hadn’t been down by, um, 29.

Yeah. Indiana bleeps, all right.

Just ask Purdue coach Matt Painter, who had nothing but the truth on his side. He climbed out of the smoking crater and brushed himself off and looked out into the cameras and digital recorders, and said, hey, there’s nothin’ to say.

“The facts are the facts,” he said. “They played harder than us, they played smarter than us. What are you going to say about that?”

You could start by saying this is an Indiana team that loves the road like Ramada, or at the very least doesn’t turn into a puddle at the prospect of leaving home. They came to Mackey having won four straight Big Ten road games going back to last year, and it was apparent from early on that this was going to be the fifth.

To be sure, everyone showed up wearing black, and Mackey made its sound and the banners, profane and otherwise, flew from high up in the nosebleeds. And it meant nothing, in the end.

The Boilermakers, starting three freshmen, were young and unready for the moment. Indiana, starting two seniors, a junior and a sophomore, was seasoned and made for the moment.

Leading 16-15, the Hoosiers spun out an 11-2 run, and then they kept on running. By halftime they’d outscored Purdue 31-12 across the final 11:42, and led by 20. They’d held Purdue to five field goals across the last 11 minutes, and outrebounded them 24-16.

And it only got worse thereafter. By the end, Purdue had missed 33 of 55 shots, had 18 turnovers to just 11 assists and had been outboarded by 10. Indiana had even punched the Boilers in the mouth with history: The 37-point loss was the worst ever for Purdue in Mackey, and its worst ever loss to IU in West Lafayette.

Zeller punished the Boilers with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Oladipo had 17 and six and three steals and one block, and two assists. Watford was 4 of 5 from behind the arc.

Trap game. Ha.

“Our guys never took their foot off the gas,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They just played with a resolve. Our defense was up and active. We just kept moving the ball. I mean, the ball really didn’t stop.”

And neither did Indiana. If the starters lingered on the floor for an unseemly length of time down the stretch, and the Hoosiers pressed Purdue later than politeness dictated, they earned the right. Or so said Matt Painter.

“When you play hard,” he said, “you can do whatever you want. And Indiana played hard.

“They’re a good team. And we’re not.”

More truth.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.