The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, January 14, 2021 1:00 am

Purdue-Indiana breakdown

Guards

Indiana: Al Durham and Rob Phinisee have put together some good stretches in recent weeks, but have also struggled to shoot the ball well on a consistent basis. The veterans had terrific games against Nebraska on Sunday, with Phinisee scoring a career-high 18 points. Much hinges on whether sophomore Armaan Franklin, Indiana's leading 3-point shooter and second-leading scorer, can play. He's a game-time decision after missing the last three contests with a sprained ankle. 

Purdue: The Boilermakers' top guard, Eric Hunter Jr., is going through a slump, shooting just 3 for 21 in his last three games. If he plays better, he significantly opens up the floor for the Boilermakers. Fellow junior Sasha Stefanovic is one of the Big Ten's top 3-point threats at 49.3% and the Hoosiers will have to avoid getting in rotations and leaving him open. Freshmen Jaden Ivey and Brandon Newman are explosive, but inconsistent. 

Edge: Indiana

Forwards

Indiana: Trayce Jackson-Davis is the reigning Big Ten co-Player of the Week and has double-doubles in his last three games. It's likely the Boilermakers will try to throw some double-teams at him, but he'll need to be aggressive even against such defenses after Nebraska shut him down for much of the game Sunday. Race Thompson provides a valuable running mate for Jackson-Davis on the boards and toughness inside, while Jerome Hunter has played his two best games of the year in Franklin's absence, becoming a threat on the glass and as an outside shooter.

Purdue: Freshman Mason Gillis and redshirt junior Aaron Wheeler provide length and athleticism alongside Purdue's elite centers, but neither is a particularly dangerous offensive threat. Wheeler especially is a tough rebounder and could grab Purdue some extra possessions.

Edge: Indiana

Centers

Indiana: The Hoosiers don't really have a center. At 6-foot-9, Jackson-Davis isn't a true center, though he often plays the position for Indiana in the absence of fifth-year senior Joey Brunk, who is out for the foreseeable future with a back injury. The Hoosiers have even played Thompson at the 5 when Jackson-Davis needs a rest.

Purdue: Junior Trevion Williams was in rare form against No. 23 Michigan State on Saturday, pouring in 24 second-half points in a comeback win. Williams seems to be getting stronger as the season goes on, shooting 60% in his last eight games, and is also maybe the best passing big man in the country. He'll get the honor of guarding Jackson-Davis. As if Williams weren't enough, 7-4 freshman Zach Edey is rapidly improving and provides critical depth.

Edge: Purdue

Coaching

Indiana: Archie Miller has Indiana playing its best defense since the Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo years, but finding enough offense remains a struggle. Despite the team's issues shooting the ball, the Hoosiers play hard and they are physical. It's the type of team Miller wanted when he took the job four years ago.

Purdue: Matt Painter is in the middle of another building job as he crafts the next Big Ten title contender in West Lafayette. He has one of the country's youngest teams, but it's growing up fast, as evidenced by its road win over Michigan State.

Edge: Purdue

Intangibles

Indiana: This is a crucial game for Indiana, which has not yet beaten a Big Ten team in the top half of the conference. The Hoosiers have also lost 10 of the last 11 to their in-state rival, the worst stretch for the program since the 1930s. Jackson-Davis has vocalized his desire for this team to be different and it could start with a win over the Boilers.

Purdue: The Boilermakers likely gained significant confidence with their comeback win over Michigan State and they've won in Assembly Hall plenty of times before, so they won't be intimidated. At this point, beating the Hoosiers is routine for Purdue.

Edge: Purdue

– Dylan Sinn, The Journal Gazette

dsinn@jg.net


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