BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In a classic example of the sort of wildness that can occur in rivalries, No. 4 Purdue lost a 68-65 thriller at Indiana on Thursday night, snapping the Boilermakers’ nine-game winning streak against the Hoosiers.
Purdue had its chance, a chance to steal a win Indiana should have felt it had every right to.
To that point, the Boilermakers’ crippling turnover problems and shoddy foul shooting had combined with a heroic performance from IU veteran guard and Lafayette native Rob Phinisee to put the Hoosiers at the cusp of a win over Purdue, finally.
Purdue, though, took the lead with a little more than a minute left off.
It was right there for the taking, literally.
In the final 30 seconds, Phinisee flashed open on a curl for a wide-open three. Missed it, short.
Eric Hunter and Trevion Williams, though, both went for the ball and one or the other knocked it out of bounds.
Phinisee made good on the do-over, hitting the go-ahead three off a baseline in-bound, as Sasha Stefanovic was hung up on a screen in pursuit.
At the other end, Jaden Ivey — playing with a bad groin, hurt in practice this week — got to the rim, but missed. After two Indiana free throws, Ivey’s game-tying three at the buzzer rimmed out, moments before Indiana fans flooded the Assembly Hall floor.
The end of the game was a stark contrast from the beginning, when the top-five Boilermakers looked very much up to the challenge of winning on Indiana’s home floor for the sixth consecutive year.
It was 7-0 Boilermakers three minutes in and 18-11 nine minutes in.
“We’ve had this Achilles heel with our team this year where we’d get up eight, 10, 12 points, and then we get away from what we’d done to build that lead,” Coach Matt Painter said. “But (Indiana) had a lot to do with it, the environment had a lot to do with it. We lost our poise there.”
Purdue turned the ball over only 12 times for the game, but Indiana turned them into 15 points. Ten of those turnovers came in the first half, four of them by Trevion Williams in the post, and those Boilermaker mistakes became Indiana’s momentum, the foundation of the 14-0 run the Hoosiers used to flip the game completely.
“We helped them have a good start,” forward Mason Gillis said. “We weren’t handling their pressure very well, and they were getting up into us, taking our ball and going and scoring at the other end.”
Such things were periodic problems for Purdue earlier this season, not as much lately.
But they wouldn’t have mattered on this night had the Boilermakers not missed 10 of their 17 foul shots. Zach Edey was 2-of-7, as Purdue’s foundational center position was just 2-of-9 for the game. Williams closed the game on the floor instead of Edey because of the free throw struggles, Painter said, but Williams has dealt with his own struggles of late. He was only 1-of-4 from the floor against IU, after a 6-of-18 game at Illinois.
Purdue got Williams a high-percentage look in the post to go up four in the final minute and it missed, setting up the drama that followed.
But Purdue leaving 10 points at the foul line obviously loomed largest when every point was the difference between winning and losing.
“We just didn’t reward ourselves by making our free throws,” Painter said. “You go 7-of-17 at the line, you get in a possession game, you’re definitely going to reflect on that and want some of those free throws back.”
Indiana missed 10 free throws, too.
Purdue’s turnover and foul-shooting issues are the story from the Boilermaker perspective, but a rivalry that has often produced unlikely heroes yielded yet another this time around.
Phinisee, Indiana’s backup point guard as a senior, drove the Hoosiers’ first win over Purdue of his career. He made four threes, grabbed four steals and totaled 20 points, capped by the biggest shot of his college career.
Starting point guard Xavier Johnson took Purdue for 18, as the Boilermakers’ dribble-penetration defense left much to be desired, an area that has gotten better lately, but reverted to earlier-season form on Thursday night.
Purdue’s turnovers fed some of their success, and Phinisee found a distinct shooting rhythm. One of Johnson’s baskets was a prayer of a three to beat the shot clock.
But they exposed Purdue off the dribble at times, too.
“Our back-line defense was non-existent,” Painter said. “We’re challenging things at the rim when we should be stopping the basketball before it gets to the paint, especially because a lot of them were baseline drives.”
For as much of Indiana’s scoring as its ball-handlers were responsible for, IU turned the ball over only three times and won despite banged-up leading scorer Trayce Jackson-Davis managing just four points in 11 foul-plagued minutes.
Jaden Ivey led Purdue with 21 points, including eight in the first three minutes of the second half to lead a Boilermaker surge. Gillis scored 13 points and Edey 12.
Crazy things happen in rivalries, but this wasn’t a crazy outcome. Indiana was better than Purdue, even without its best player doing much of anything. The Boilermakers’ poise issues were part of an array of self-destruction that was really surprising given the way Purdue had been trending. But Indiana deserves more credit than Purdue deserves blame, because the Hoosiers have found a competitive streak that was missing during the past nine games against the Boilermakers.