FORT WAYNE – Indiana and Purdue enter today’s game at Mackey Arena with plenty of similarities.
The in-state rivals are both 14-10 and 4-7 in the Big Ten.
Both are among the best rebounding teams in the conference with IU No. 2 with 40.8 per game and Purdue No. 3 at 39.7 per game.
Both have struggled with turnovers with the Hoosiers having the most in the league with 15.6 per game and the Boilermakers the third most with 12 per game.
And both have struggled lately with IU losing three of its last four and Purdue losing four of its last five.
Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose team has lost the last four in the series after winning five straight, said all of the numbers add up to an unpredictable game.
I think it is awful hard to gauge inconsistent teams, that’s what both teams have been, Painter said. We’ve both played well in spurts, but we’ve both have had our struggles. If you get both teams taking care of the basketball, I think you could see a very good basketball game.
Today will be the only time the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers play this season. It’s the first time that has happened since the 2007-08 season.
The two could meet again in the Big Ten tournament, and with the conference adding Maryland and Rutgers next season, the league could protect rivalries to guarantee two games each season.
It is a prospect Painter and IU coach Tom Crean are behind, but both said it is not their decision to make.
Of course you’d like to have that because it’s good for everybody and there’s a lot of interest in it, Crean said. To sit and lobby for it and sit and worry about it, I’ll leave that to somebody else. It all comes down to how the Big Ten decides to schedule games.
Today’s game could be decided by a couple of key matchups with the Boilermakers’ A.J. Hammons and the Hoosiers’ Noah Vonleh squaring off in a battle of two of the conference’s top big men, and starting point guards – IU’s Yogi Ferrell and Purdue’s Ronnie Johnson – trying to neutralize each other.
Hammons leads the Big Ten in blocks with 73, is third in rebounding with 7.4 per game and is the Boilermakers’ second-leading scorer with 12.2 points per game.
We’ve spent a lot of time getting ready and preparing for him, Crean said. He’s got very good feet, can go over either shoulder. Nice touch. Uses his size very well, and I think he’s in very good shape. Those are things that we see.
Vonleh is the Big Ten’s top rebounder with 9.6 per game, is the Hoosiers’ second-leading scorer with 11.5 points per game and can stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting. He has made 11 of 19 3-point attempts.
The guy has the most double-doubles (10) in the Big Ten as a true freshman, Painter said. He can drive the ball. He can shoot on the perimeter. He’s a really good player.
There are few players in the Big Ten as good as Ferrell this season. The sophomore leads the league with 17.5 points per game, is fifth in assists with 4 per game and is hitting 42.8 percent of his 3-pointers.
He’s the guy who can make other people on Indiana better with his ability to pass, his ability to break down the defense, his ability to stretch the defense with his range, just his overall knowledge of the game and his quickness is tough to match up to, Painter said.
Purdue counters with Johnson, who averages 10.5 points and 3.8 assists.
Tremendous speed, quickness, athleticism, Crean said of Johnson. Gets to the rim shooting the ball better. Gets up into you defensively. A winner. He’s an outstanding player, there’s no doubt.