Purdue coach Matt Painter knows his team is facing an uphill battle when the Boilermakers (12-13, 5-7 Big Ten) take on No. 1 Indiana (22-3, 10-2) at 2 p.m. today in Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers blew out the Boilers 97-60 Jan. 30 in Mackey Arena, and the 200th meeting between the in-state rivals will not be any easier for Purdue.
"Their defense is just so much better this year than it was last year," Painter said of IU, which is holding teams to 61.2 points per game while averaging a Big Ten-leading 82.9 points per game. "And what that does is it allows you to be really good when you're not making shots. When they're making shots, they are a well-oiled machine. They can get you in so many different ways. They obviously can get you in transition. They can get you off the glass. They can play off their defense. They play off their defense. It creates so much offense for them. And they are better in the half court. Where they get out of kilter is when they shoot too quick in the half court. When they are efficient in the half court, they are patient.
"They are very, very difficult to beat, especially at home or on a neutral court."
Indiana is led by sophomore forward Cody Zeller, who averaged 16.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
But there are plenty of other dangerous players on the Hoosiers' roster, especially Victor Oladipo. The junior guard has raised his shooting percentage from 47.1 percent last season to 63.6 percent this season.
Oladipo is also one of the best defenders in the Big Ten.
"He's realized what he has to do to help Indiana win," Painter said of what makes Oladipo more dangerous this season. "He takes more shots that he can make. He takes a good shot for Indiana. What I mean by that is you just don't shoot in the 60s against people in the best conference in America without being intelligent. He just takes an intelligent shot. He takes a rhythm three. He'll shoot a pull-up occasionally, if you force him to. He is getting to the basket, getting a lot of layups, a lot of dunks. He's getting free throws. But what he does is take a good shot for his team. That has really improved the offense and really helped their team. It gives them a good balance.
"Oladipo's understanding has really helped them. And he's the best defender in our league, in my opinion. That's a huge statement, because I love Aaron Craft. He is changing the games at times without scoring, and very few people, mostly a shot blocker, changes the game without scoring. He's doing it on the defensive end. He can guard anybody. Outside of a big post, he can guard anybody."
Purdue could put up a better fight against Indiana today then it did in the first meeting. But the end result will probably be the same with IU winning.
Prediction: Indiana 82, Purdue 66