Hoosiers center Joey Brunk has never played in the Indiana-Purdue game – before this season he played at Butler – but he is an Indianapolis native and he knows what the rivalry means to the state.
“The IU-Purdue game always carries a little more weight,” Brunk said. “I remember watching it growing up, and you always made sure you got home in time from practice to be able to watch.
“It's really, really special to get the chance to play in it. I know it's going to be one of those that you're happy that you got to say you were a part of when you look back down the road.”
The state's two flagship universities will meet for today for the 210th time, facing off at Assembly Hall before a Feb. 27 rematch at Mackey Arena. Both teams are jockeying for NCAA Tournament position and, in Purdue's case, trying to remain on the right side of the bubble.
Indiana comes in losers of three in a row for the first time this season, including a couple of lackluster road defeats at Penn State and Ohio State last week. The Hoosiers have had six days off to prepare for this game.
Purdue, meanwhile, has won two in a row for the first time since Jan. 2 and is coming off a 36-point destruction of No. 17 Iowa on Wednesday, the program's largest-ever win over a ranked opponent. The Boilers made 19 3-pointers in that game, and Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said the key to stopping Purdue's shooters is to work on the glass.
“They made a ton of shots early off of great effort on the boards,” Miller said of Purdue's performance against the Hawkeyes. “I think that's the thing that probably goes the most underrated when you start talking about Purdue is how good they are on the boards right now.
“They're killing teams on the offensive glass, and they're generating 3-point shots for (Sasha) Stefanovic, (Evan) Boudreaux.”
The Hoosiers are 13th in the country in average rebound margin at plus-7.7, but they were badly outmuscled on the boards against Ohio State last Saturday, and Miller bemoaned his team's lack of physicality.
On Purdue's side, the focus is on starting strong.The Boilers have fallen behind early in most of their road games this season, contributing to a 3-8 record away from Mackey Arena.
“We have to actually start the game this time,” center Matt Haarms said, smiling. “We can be funny about it, of course, but that's something that hasn't gone well for this team, is starting off well on the road. ... We need to get to the point where this team is mature enough to start the right way.”
Haarms was the focal point of the Assembly Hall crowd's attention the last time Purdue played in Bloomington, the target of a profane chant for much of the game. He silenced the candy-striped faithful with a game-winning tip-in in the final seconds of a 48-46 Boilers victory, Purdue's fifth win in a row against Indiana.
“You know they're going to say stuff, that's just the rivalry,” Haarms said of the Bloomington crowd. “That's the essence of the rivalry. There's a lot of players that have made themselves very unpopular down there, but you've just gotta continue to play through it.”
Notes: Indiana's 1980 Big Ten championship team will be honored at halftime today. The Hoosiers that year featured five All-Americans – Mike Woodson, Isiah Thomas, Randy Wittman, Ted Kitchel and Landon Turner – and 12 NBA draft picks. ...Longtime Purdue coach Gene Keady, a seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, will be at the game.
Indiana vs. Purdue
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
Records: Indiana (15-7, 5-6 Big Ten), Purdue (13-10, 6-6)
Radio: 1250 AM, 1380 AM, 100.9 FM