BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Tuesday night was the worst home loss by Indiana basketball against Purdue since 1934. It was an 87-66 deficit when the final buzzer sounded and, honestly, it didn’t even seem that close.
It was a quick start for Indiana — an early seven points by freshman Mackenzie Mgbako that set the tone in what looked to be a physically and mentally taxing game.
Then, at the 15:30 mark, the game shifted. Mgbako was called for his second foul, and any early energy left Assembly Hall.
That’s when the same lingering issues for Indiana basketball came to the forefront — a lack of toughness, leadership and pride.
Purdue would outscore Indiana 42-22 the remaining 15:30 of the half, leading 51-29 at the half.
“You’d like to think that — I thought we came out ready to play,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “I think the fouls kind of slowed us down a little bit. But you know, again, I don’t call the game. You’ve got to try to overcome it, but we didn’t. We fell in the hole and it was tough digging out.”
The physical style of play translated to a 7-1 foul advantage in favor of Purdue at the under-12 timeout with 9:47 left in the first half. It was 11-5 at the end of the first half. Purdue was 14-of-16 from the foul line while Indiana was 1-of-2.
As expected, the tone was set in the paint. Zach Edey was 11-of-12 from the free throw line — making more free throws than Indiana attempted.
“I can’t sit here and complain about the officiating. It’s what it is,” Woodson continued. “You know, we couldn’t get to Edey quick enough. I thought the way they set him up versus how we played him last season.
“You know, again, Trayce and Race, they are not here. I’ve got to get my two big guys a little more tougher. That’s got to help. I didn’t think we played tough enough, and Edey kind of had his way. We’ve got to work on that. It’s a work in progress.”
Despite all that went wrong in the first half, Indiana came out firing in the second half. It outscored Purdue by 10 in the first three minutes to cut it to 11 and then eventually cutting the Purdue lead to nine twice at the 14:36 and 12:50 marks. But, all of that energy was exerted just to get the game within striking distance.
Indiana would then be outscored by 12 over the remaining 12:50 of the game.
“Well, we got smacked the first half, and you’ve got to give them credit. I thought they were more tougher. Yeah, there were a lot of fouls called against us, but they set the tone,” Woodson said. “I thought we came out with good intentions back and forth there, eight, nine, ten points. And then we couldn’t make shots. You know, that was a big difference in the first half, and they made shots and they got to the free throw line and Edey had a lot to do with that.”
For the game, Indiana made just two less field goals than Purdue and even hit one more three. But, it was an 18-point advantage on free throws from the Boilermakers that tiled the scale.
Purdue was 22-of-27 from the line while Indiana was 4-of-9.
“I mean, you just have to stick to your game plan, and I mean, obviously they are a physical team, and have a very big post presence down low,” Indiana senior guard Trey Galloway said. “But I think just at the end of the day, just going out there, competing, and finding ways to get stops, that’s the biggest thing. We didn’t do that.”
Competing. Toughness. Those are two aspects of this Indiana basketball team that have been hard to find — and unfortunately midway through January and a third of the way through Big Ten play, it’s still an issue.
It’s been a trend in all of Indiana’s losses. It has an average margin of defeat of 16.3 points per game. Three of those losses have come by 20+ points.
Indiana lost by 28 to Auburn, 20 to UConn, 16 to Nebraska, nine to Rutgers. And, then Tuesday’s 21-point beatdown to Purdue. All of those losses Indiana left the court as a soft team — mentally and physically.
While there have been moments that brought the thought of — ‘has Indiana turned the corner?’. The fact is, no. And Indiana isn’t even close.
Tuesday night was another example of how far this Indiana basketball team is from competing against the top teams in the country. It also shows the lack of leadership needed — from both the players and the coaches. Whatever message is being relayed continues to fall on deaf ears.
So as Indiana turns its attention to two top-15 opponents on the road in its next two games — at Wisconsin and at Illinois — why should there be any thoughts of change?
There hasn’t up to this point, and Tuesday’s inability to match the intensity and toughness of its biggest rival at home shows there should be little hope things can turn around that quickly.
“Especially when it’s a big game like this,” Galloway said. “You’ve got to find ways to fight and be tough.”
SEE ALSO: A fast start for Indiana basketball went by the wayside as an aggressive Mackenzie Mgbako sat with early fouls: ‘Should have brought him back a lot sooner’
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